Joshua Kim: Immigration policy is not solely Trump’s fault

Wednesday, October 16, 2019 - 4:59pm

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On Oct. 2, President Donald Trump's administration set plans to conduct a mass collection of DNA samples from migrants taken into custody. The implications of this policy could be massive: Hundreds of thousands of migrants would have their DNA stored into a national FBI database

At the Department of Homeland Security, senior officials stated that this move would grant immigration officials and officers the jurisdiction to collect the DNA from anyone held within border detention facilities. At any given time, roughly 40,000 migrants are held within those facilities. 

Some contend that this measure is not severe since a similar program already exists at the border. Operation Double Helix is an active protocol being practiced to help border agents determine genetic links between parents and their children in hopes to identify child trafficking operations. However, what makes this new policy a truly abhorrent unethical wreck is its scope.

A basic American principle of justice suggests a policy of probable cause. At least in the case of Operation Double Helix, the basis of that protocol is to ultimately deter crimes particularly pertaining to human trafficking. However, this new program would give authorities the absolute power to invade the privacy of migrants regardless of probable cause. The fact that any person would think to implement such a policy is antithetical to common American values and it is shameful to make one’s own privacy the cost for entry.

Of the few supporters of this policy, some attempt to rationalize it by reminding us that illegal immigration is a crime. However, then the logical conclusion would be that not only illegal immigration – but also every first-time misdemeanor – should also be eligible for DNA collection by the FBI. Got your second minor in possession in Michigan? Eligible. Drank a little too much in public? Eligible. Got some marijuana? Eligible. 

With that disgusting and asinine logic, the bar for officials to violate one’s privacy is a low one, making it even more insulting to suggest that a first-time misdemeanor like migrating across the border would be suitable grounds for officials to funnel DNA into a comprehensive national FBI database. 

The administration’s move to pursue this type of policy reveals that Trump will go to extreme lengths to desperately “fulfill” his campaign promise to be hard on immigration. Instead of a “glorious” wall expanding along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump has opted to create a genetic barrier with a eugenic air. 

Though this may seem like an abuse of executive power, it’s not. One could only argue that Trump’s policies are grossly unethical. And that’s the most troubling part. Legally, Trump potentially has the grounds to enact this policy without any constitutional pushback. Under the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, Trump would have the executive power as president to implement his initiative because it falls within the legally broad definition for DNA collection. 

That’s the reality of the entire immigration border crisis: Not all of this is Trump’s doing. True, people can argue that Trump handles immigration with an uncontained racist fervor to feed his base, but what people cannot deny is that immigration has been in constant humanitarian and ethical crisis for decades regardless of who is president. The detention centers at the border existed during Barack Obama’s presidency with undeniably terrible conditions. Obama deported more people than Trump. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE, was founded under the Bush Administration in 2003.

Immigration is a problem that predated Trump. Ultimately, most of the problems related to presidents and their immigration policies can be rooted in law. Immigration laws have been designed to be so broad in purpose that the executive branch can use these laws and powers with impunity.

Due to loose and poorly developed laws, Congress has allowed immigration to be melded by the whims of the president. Instead of actually developing a basic moral standard for immigrants, partisans have decided that their views are the only correct ways to see the immigration crisis. And this failure to confidently amend the issues at the border will continue to cost immigrants their liberty, privacy and humanity. 

Joshua Kim can be reached at joshica@umich.edu.