The National Center for Border Security and Immigration
A DHS Center of Excellence Newsletter - June 2013

A Post-Apprehension Survey of Unauthorized Immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico Border

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS
To better understand the histories and motivations
of immigrants who attempt to cross the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization, researchers with the National Center for Border Security and Immigration (BORDERS) interviewed 1,000 detainees in the U.S. Border Patrol Tucson Sector during the summer of 2012.

The research team used a 38-question survey administered by bilingual interviewers to learn about the detainees' characteristics, their current and previous border crossing attempts, and their reasons for crossing.

To address the primary goal of the study, all survey questions were related to two principal questions: (1) Do you think you will attempt to cross again in the next seven days? (2) Do you think you will return to the U.S. someday?

To encourage truthful responses, the interviewers assured the individuals that their responses would remain anonymous, that the interviewers did not work for the Border Patrol, that individual survey results would not be shared with the Border Patrol, that the individuals' answers would not influence legal or administrative outcomes, and that the individuals could skip any question or could conclude the interview at any point.

This study found that work and the existence of family in the United States are the primary motivations for individuals who attempt to enter the country without authorization.

To see the final report, please visit the BORDERS website by clicking here.

In This Issue

  • Post-apprehension Survey of Unauthorized Immigrants

  • Perceptual Identification of Imposters

  • MSI Summer Research Programs at BORDERS

  • Immigration Law and Border Enforcement Seminar

  • International Border Security Workshop

  • About Us

  • Contact Information


Perceptual Identification of Imposters in a Multi-Cultural Context

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI

Dr. Kyle Susa, UTEP's NCBSI
The terrorists attacks of 2011 changed the lives of all Americans. One of the most prominent changes has been a heightened state of security at public events, at U.S. borders, and with airline travel. Identifying suspected criminals who are using imposter identification to enter our country is an increasingly important component to heightened security and reducing the threat of terror. While identifying imposters is difficult under the most ideal circumstances, psychological research has demonstrated a number of human, systematic, and situational factors that can make the task exceedingly challenging.

Drs. Christian Meissner and Kyle Susa at the National Center for Border Security at the University of Texas at El Paso have been conducting a series of studies investigating how these factors influence imposter identification when Customs and Border Protection Officers are tasked with inspecting travelers. While the perceptual identification task of determining whether a traveler is actually the same person presented on a photo ID/Passport is completed thousands of times each day, the limitations of human face perception remain unclear. Using college student samples and controlled experimental research designs, the work of Meissner and Susa has led to several key findings. These findings include:
  • individuals are over-confident in their performance but under-perform on such tasks
  • individuals are more accurate in the identification of imposters when the individual is of the same racial/ethnic group (when compared with performance on individuals from another, less familiar race/ethnicity) as themselves
  • aged photographs significantly impair identification performance
  • the use of disguises (hats or sunglasses) significantly impair identification performance
  • a high degree of similarity between the traveler and imposter photo increases the difficulty of accurate identification
Future directions of the research seek to understand how factors such as officer vigilance and the need to perform the inspection process with travelers using multiple forms of identification (e.g., U.S. Passport, Residence Card, Foreign Passport, Sentri Card) can also influence imposter identification. In addition, individual characteristics that may be predictive of superior performance also will be studied.

Drs. Meissner and Susa will engage the Office of Field Operations to better understand the nature of imposter of identification within the homeland security context. With this context in mind, and a better understanding of the human limitations of imposter identification, they ultimate hope to enhance the training of imposter identifications using a "perceptual learning" training program. The development of this training will seek to increase attention toward discriminant facial features that both improve identification of imposters and minimize the misidentification of innocent persons.

MSI Summer Research Programs at BORDERS

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS
During the 2013 summer, BORDERS is hosting two MSI Summer Research Teams (SRT). The MSI SRT program provides early career faculty with research and funding opportunities that can be advantageous when applying for tenure. The program also provides later career faculty with opportunities to apply their well-developed skill sets to homeland security research problems of vital interest to the nation.

The first team will be led by Dr. Wingyan Chung of Fayetteville State University. Dr. Chung is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management in the School of Business and Economics at UNC Fayetteville State University. He is Founding Director of the Knowledge Systems Laboratory, which develops and validates intelligent information processing technology to advance understanding in knowledge systems in various domains, such as business intelligence, cybersecurity, and web mining. Dr. Chung received his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems from The University of Arizona.

Dr. Chung will be collaborating on a social media informatics project with BORDERS researchers. The findings of this project will enhance understanding of the use of social media in policy making, and may prove beneficial to USCIS and CBP.

The second MSI SRT will be led by Dr. Kenneth Faller of California State University, Fullerton. Dr. Faller has a degree in Electrical Engineering and is an assistant professor in the Computer Engineering program at CSUF. His research focuses on digital signal processing, image processing, digital filters, and embedded systems.

Dr. Faller will be investigating methods to reduce or remove the influence of background noise on the vocalic measures and deception detection algorithms used by the AVATAR kiosk. This project will greatly assist AVATAR development for field applications where environmental noise is prevalent, such as at airports or land border crossings.

Scientific Leadership Award

In the summer of 2013, BORDERS will also be hosting a recipient of the DHS Scientific Leadership Award. Assistant Professor Mais Nijim, from the department of electrical engineering and computer science at Texas A&M University, Kingsville, will be collaborating with BORDERS researchers on a social media informatics project. Dr. Nijim will also be working with Dr. Wingyan Chung.

Border Enforcement Seminar on Immigration Law: Student and DHS Stakeholder Engagement

El Paso, TX -- NCBSI

2013 NCBSI sponsored homeland security stakeholder and student seminar in progress
The Immigration Law and Border Security Enforcement program is a two-credit, annual seminar that was developed as an intensive program by the National Center for Border Security & Immigration and the Hofstra University Law School Program in New York. The program concluded its third year, which was open to national enrollment. Tuition charges covered not only curriculum costs, but lodging and travel to and from the University of El Paso, Texas campus.

This Program provides students the unique opportunity to experience immigration law and border enforcement in a U.S.-Mexican border environment. Students attended May 19 through May 25 2013. The program includes intense in-class instruction, lectures, practical training, and interactive field engagements with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Office of Field Operations, the El Paso Immigration Court, Federal Immigration Judges, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities. Total enrollment for the 2013 seminar was 26 students.

This seminar examined established immigration laws including case law updates from the Fifth and Tenth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and ways in which federal immigration officers enforce immigration laws at the border. The course examines, among other areas, the relevant provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act; Fourth Amendment Border Patrol stop cases; federal programs and policies such as Operation Hold the Line; Fourth Amendment search and seizure cases; provides an overview of Customs and Border Protection, and all relevant statutes and regulations relevant to border enforcement.

The program concluded with a three-hour seminar focused on providing local homeland security stakeholders a training update on recent immigration case law focused on search and seizures at ports of entry and applications of the Fourth Amendment during Border Patrol stops from the Fifth and Tenth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The seminar, which was open to our local homeland security stakeholders, was largely attended by Customs and Border Protection supervisors from throughout the El Paso and southern New Mexico region. Essential personnel from the El Paso Office of Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations were also in attendance.

A total of 24 of our stakeholders from the different DHS components were in attendance. Students enrolled in the two-credit seminar were also allowed to participate in the training seminar and interact with and learn directly from our DHS stakeholders while they themselves participated in the training. One OFO attendee was quoted as stating on behalf of her colleagues, "Thank you for inviting us to the seminar, we really enjoyed it and found it very interesting". At the conclusion of the seminar, an attorney from ICE and the CBP Office of Assistant Chief Counsel lectured and continued the discussion with the students, providing them with a Q&A session to conclude the overall program before their final exam was administered on the last day of the program.

International Border Security Workshop - Lapland, Finland

Tucson, AZ -- BORDERS

BORDERS Director, Jay Nunamaker; FRONTEX Director General, Ilkka Laitinen; and BORDERS Executive Director, Elyse Golob

BORDERS researchers traveled to Rovaniemi, Lapland, Finland in March to co-host an International Border Security Workshop in conjunction with the Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Cassidian and Frontex.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss current challenges in securing international air, land, and sea borders, as well as to identify and prioritize key areas for future research. Attendees included BORDERS Director and Executive Director, Jay Nunamaker and Elyse Golob; Ilkka Laitinen, FRONTEX Director General, Elizabeth Collett, Director of Migration Policy Institute Europe; Michal Orosz, CREATE researcher; Margo Edwards, CIMES Director; Tim Coughlin, Canada Border Services Agency; and faculty members and researchers from Laurea University. While in Rovaniemi, participants also took a tour of the Finnish Border Guard Air Patrol station.

This workshop served as an invaluable opportunity to discuss border security issues, share best practices, and develop international relationships that will facilitate information sharing and cooperation across international borders in the future. BORDERS plans to issue a white paper on the workshop findings later this year.

Note: No DHS funds were used for this event.


The National Center for Border Security and Immigration, co-led by the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Texas at El Paso, is developing technologies, tools and advanced methods to balance immigration and trade with effective border security, as well as assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.

Questions and Comments

For inquiries regarding the Center, please contact: Elyse Golob, Executive Director, BORDERS or Victor Manjarrez, Associate Director, NCBSI:

- Elyse Golob, University of Arizona, Executive Director,
- Victor M. Manjarrez, Jr., University of Texas at El Paso, Associate Director,

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Copyright 2013 The National Center for Border Security and Immigration. All rights reserved.