Research Areas

Detection: Humans

Vehicles and Decision Support

Networks: Interoperability and Reliability

Fusion: Tools and Approaches


Governance and Border Policy

Health and Human Behavior


Screening and Tracking

About Us

The University of Arizona
McClelland Hall, Room 427
P.O. Box 210108
Tucson, AZ  85721-0108
Tel:  520-621-7515

The University of Texas at El Paso
Vowell Hall, Room 310
500 West University Avenue
El Paso, TX  79968-0703
Tel:  915-747-5925


BORDERS Director: Jay F. Nunamaker
Executive Director: Elyse Golob

NCBSI Director: Michael R. Smith

NCBSI fact sheet

Project Search

National Center for Border Security and Immigration

The National Center for Border Security and Immigration (NCBSI) develops innovative technologies, proficient processes, and effective policies to help protect the nation's borders from terrorists and criminals, ease international trade and travel, and provide a deeper understanding of the forces that lead foreigners to try to immigrate.

Center Activity

Project Spotlights

An Assessment of CBP Consequence Delivery Programs

Consequence delivery programs (including Expedited Removal, Operation Streamline, Mexican Interior Repatriation Program, Alien Transfer Exit Program, and Operation against Smugglers Initiative on Safety and Security) have been adopted across the Southwest Border, though most extensively in the Tucson Sector. Recent declines in apprehensions suggest these programs may be among the factors deterring repeat illegal entries. This project will assess the effectiveness of various consequence programs by reviewing the literature, meeting with technical and policy experts, visiting the Tucson Sector to meet with Border patrol staff, and analyzing CBP IDENT data to identify recidivism rates (i.e., patterns of repeat illegal entry attempts). Following the site visit and data analysis, the researchers will discuss findings at an invitation-only roundtable with technical and policy experts similar to those assembled for our previous border metrics project. Finally, a report will be produced summarizing the findings and the roundtable discussions, and drawing conclusions about the deterrent impacts and overall effectiveness of consequence delivery programs.

Principle Investigator: Doris Meissner, Migration Policy Institute

Optimal Practice Schedules for Enhancing Encoding and Long-term Retention of Novel Information in Older Adults

The United States Citizenship and immigration Services (USCIS) have noted a higher failure rate on the naturalization exam to obtain U.S. citizenship for older adults.  Age-related declines in a number of cognitive processes, such as working memory, may contribute to difficulties with learning new information. The current project explores the ideal combinations of practice schedule (equally-spaced, expanded, or massed) and learning conditions that may help counter these problems to facilitate learning and long-term memory in older adults. Findings from our first two experiments, conducted during years 3 & 4 of the Center, where older adults were given a single session of learning, revealed some differences in best learning practices for different types of stimuli. People best remember facts about a foreign country when they test themselves on the items in a distributed (either equal or expanded) schedule. Long term memory for foreign-language vocabulary is best achieved after learning in an expanded schedule, regardless of whether people re-study or test themselves on the learned items. These findings provide the framework for our proposed studies in year 6 which will focus on techniques to facilitate deeper encoding of novel items at initial learning and will explore the impact of distributed practice over multiple sessions as compared to within a single learning session.  We plan to continue to engage USCIS during this year to discuss the appropriate transition of this work into public education tools or informational materials for USCIS and community stakeholders.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Ashley Bangert-University of Texas El Paso


Determinants of DACA Applications: A Multi-level, Bi-national Study of Incentives, Deterrents, and Consequences of Decisions to Seek Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

This project will identify and estimate factors affecting the rate of applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The core research question is how immigrant communities in the United States and Mexico are interpreting and responding to DACA, and how these responses determine who applies for the program and who does not.  The project researchers will study determinants of application decisions that operate at both the individual and receiving-community level. They will also document the short-term consequences of participation in the DACA program on immigrant integration. The methodological approach to these questions will combine field surveys in southern California and Oaxaca, Mexico with analysis of individual-level data on DACA applicants obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The aim of the research is to provide guidance for improving program administration and increasing participation among DACA-eligible immigrants.

Principal Investigators: Wayne Cornelius, UC-San Diego

Current Projects

Localization and Tracking of Vehicles, Cargo and Persons
Demoz Gebre-Egziabher - University of Minnesota

Optimal Practice Schedules for Enhancing Encoding and Long-term Retention of Novel Information in Older Adults
Ashley Bangert-University of Texas El Paso

An Assessment of CBP Consequence Delivery Programs
Doris Meissner - Migration Policy Institute

The Importance of Photographic, Target, and Perceiver Factors in the Perceptual Identification of Own-and Other-Race/Ethnicity Persons
Kyle Susa-University of Texas El Paso

Scientific Foundation of the AVATAR: Improved Accuracy and Expanded Data Analysis
Jay F. Nunamaker & Judee Burgoon - University of Arizona

Operations Research Model to Increase the Availability of Custody and Care Placements for Unaccompanied Minors-University of Texas El Paso

Coverage Estimates of the U.S. Mexican-Born Population and Measures of Unauthorized Migration
Frank Bean - University of California, Irvine & Jennifer Van Hook - Pennsylvania State University

Development of Optimized Patrol Strategies Based on Change Detection Capabilities
Heidi Taboada-University of Texas El Paso

Development and Testing of a Cell-Phone Signal Based GPS-Denied Navigation System for Small UAVs
Demoz Gebre-Egziabher - University of Minnesota

Customs and Border Protection Curricula Review and Gap Analysis-University of Texas El Paso

Determinants of DACA Applications: A Multi-level, Bi-national Study of Incentives, Deterrents, and Consequences of Decisions to Seek Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Wayne Cornelius - University of California, San Diego

Border Patrol Academy Basic Curriculum Review-University of Texas El Paso

Blue Campaign Project: Request for Proposals in Human Trafficking Research 
Elyse Golob - University of Arizona

Homeland Security Seminar Series-University of Texas El Paso

Homeland Security Summer Scholars Academy-University of Texas El Paso

Recent Publications

For a list of BORDERS publications, please visit:

Student Opportunities at NCBSI

Homeland Security Summer Scholars Academy

The Homeland Security Summer Scholars Academy is a 10 week summer research institute where undergraduate students work closely with UTEP professors engaged in new or ongoing research in the domains border security and immigration.  Applications from students throughout the United States are solicited, and student-scholars are identified through a competitive selection process. In addition to working with a faculty mentor, emerging scholars with a demonstrated interest in homeland security-related careers are provided the opportunity to increase their knowledge of career possibilities in homeland security through visits with homeland security related agencies and scheduled interactions with DHS personnel. Through these visits and interactions, participants develop an enhanced understanding of critical issues in border security and immigration.  At the end of the 10 week program, scholars are required to present the results from their summer research projects before a panel of UTEP faculty and local homeland security stakeholders. Agencies within our stakeholder support network for the summer program include: Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, Immigration Customs and Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, El Paso Intelligence Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Division of Emergency Management, and El Paso County Sheriff’s Emergency Management Unit and their Forensic Investigative Crime Scene Unit.

Student Opportunities at BORDERS

Educational activities at BORDERS occur primarily through student involvement in research projects, the incorporation of research materials into course curricula, and student involvement in Center activities. Student involvement ranges from the undergraduate level to masters and doctoral students. Directly involving students in all aspects of Center projects in addition to other Center activities, promotes student interest in working for DHS agencies and/or academic careers dedicated to research critical to the DHS mission. With direct mentorship and hands-on guidance from the project PIs, the students serve as “border security apprentices” throughout their tenure and gain expertise in the HS-STEM and immigration-related disciplines. As apprentices, these students develop a greater understanding of mission-focused research, stakeholder needs, and learn to communicate their research results in both a written and oral fashion.

As a result of this direct involvement in Center research and activities, these students are extremely well-positioned to publish academic journals during their graduate career and enter the job market with a distinct advantage, while having a deep understanding of the border security challenges that DHS faces.

Technology Transition

E2E Project Information

AVATAR - Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time

University of Arizona

There are many circumstances, particularly in a border-crossing scenario, when credibility must be accurately assessed. At the same time, since people deceive for a variety of reasons, benign and nefarious, detecting deception and determining potential risk are extremely difficult. Using artificial intelligence and non-invasive sensor technologies, BORDERS has developed a screening system called the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time (AVATAR). The AVATAR is designed to flag suspicious or anomalous behavior that warrants further investigation by a trained human agent in the field. This screening technology may be useful at Land Ports of Entry, airports, detention centers, visa processing, asylum requests, and personnel screening.

The AVATAR has the potential to greatly assist DHS by serving as a force multiplier that frees personnel to focus on other mission-critical tasks, and provides more accurate decision support and risk assessment. This can be accomplished by automating interviews and document/biometric collection, and delivering real-time multi-sensor credibility assessments in a screening environment. In previous years, we have focused on conducting the basic research on reliably analyzing human behavior for deceptive cues, better understanding the DHS operational environment, and developing and testing a prototype system.


Research Partners

University of Arizona -Co-Lead
University of Texas El Paso-Co-Lead
Arizona State University
Georgetown University
Hofstra University
Migration Policy Institute (MPI)
New Mexico State University
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Pennsylvania State University
RAND Corporation
RTI International
Rutgers University
San Diego State University
University of California - Irvine
University of California - San Diego
University of California-Santa Barbara
University of Minnesota
University of Nebraska at Omaha
University of New Mexico
University of Souther California
University of Texas – Pan American
University of Washington
West Virginia University

Federal Partners

Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol
Customs and Border Protection-Office of Field Operations
Customs and Border Protection-Office of Technology and Acquisition
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Office of Policy
Transportation and Security Administration
Blue Campaign
Office of Biometric Identity Management
Science and Technology
National Science Foundation
Department of State