Undocumented Immigrants: Orrin Hatch Wants Your DNA

The Utah senator puts forward an immigration reform amendment.

ByABC News
May 7, 2013, 4:33 PM

May 7, 2013— -- Give me your DNA.

That's what Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is saying to undocumented immigrants hoping to get legal under an immigration reform plan being proposed in the Senate.

Right now, the bill is in the "mark up" stage, meaning senators on the judiciary committee are able to offer amendments to the original legislation. So far, dozens have already been filed.

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Among other things, the underlying bill would create a 10-year pathway to citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants.

Hatch has offered an amendment that would require most undocumented immigrants to submit a DNA sample along with other data when applying for legal status through

The idea, according to the amendment, is to check the samples against federal crime lab databases, and root out any criminals who might be applying through the program.

The federal government already has the authority to collect DNA samples from immigrants in detention.

But the difference in this case is that the applicants would not be placed in detention, according to David Leopold, general counsel with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Those applying for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status -- the vehicle that most undocumented immigrants would use -- would be applying for an immigration benefit, he said.

"It's not detention, there's no requirement that anyone apply for RPI status," Leopold said. "They could leave the country or they could do nothing."

Some visa applications can require DNA testing to prove a familial relationship, but it's not a standard part of applying for a green card or citizenship.

Hatch's call for DNA samples is sure to catch the attention of civil liberties groups. And of people who just think it's weird for the government to ask for some of your DNA.

"I think the biggest thing to understand is how incredibly invasive this would be," said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for privacy-related issues at the American Civil Liberties Union. "I mean DNA is not like fingerprint. You're unveiling a lot of personal and sensitive information about a person with DNA."

9:50 p.m. -- This piece was updated to clarify that the federal government can collect DNA samples from immigration detainees under existing law, and how that related to the current immigration proposal in the Senate.