MONTGOMERY — Legislation that would require law enforcement in Alabama to collect fingerprints and DNA of illegal immigrants in custody passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 320 by State Sen. Lance Bell (R-Pell City) would require a law enforcement agency in Alabama that has an illegal alien in its custody to collect a full set of fingerprints and a DNA sample from the individual before being released.

Bell said the idea for the legislation came from a recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with other Alabama elected officials. 

“In talking to Border Patrol and Homeland Security down there, when an illegal alien comes across the border, they’re fingerprinting them and doing a DNA swab. What they told us was the problem they’re having is if they don’t have good fingerprints (or) have good DNA these people are coming back across the border two and three times committing crimes under different names,” Bell said in committee on Wednesday. “Their request was we need to do a better job on a database statewide of the illegal aliens to track. An example was in Talladega County there was a murder case being tried. One of the witnesses said, ‘You actually have him charged under the wrong name.’ D.A. (Steve) Giddens said, ‘Well, tell me about that.’ He thought the woman didn’t know what she was talking about. (She said,) ‘Well, his name is really so-and-so and he’s wanted for murder in California.’ After the conviction in Talladega County, they checked, got his DNA, did a DNA sample from the person out in California, and found he had four or five, six different aliases but for that DNA they’d never have connected him to that murder out in California. That’s the issue there.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) voted against the measure because he said he “still thinks it just identifies brown people” after asking about the definition used for illegal aliens in the bill. 

Bell said the definition of illegal alien would be the one used under federal law. 

According to a fiscal note on the legislation, Senate Bill 320, as introduced, could increase the obligations of the Department of Forensic Sciences, paid from the DNA Database Fund, to test and catalog fingerprints and DNA samples taken of illegal aliens in the custody of local law enforcement agencies prior to release from custody. The amount of the Department's increased obligation is undetermined, but would be dependent upon the number of DNA samples that would be required to be tested and cataloged pursuant to the provisions of this bill.

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