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Request for Proposals for Borders, Trade, and Immigration Research RFP-17-01

UPDATE: FAQ added below

 Proposals due: Friday, May 5, 2017, 11:59PM (Central)

Introduction | Proposal Topic Areas | Key Information | Proposal Requirements | Submission Instructions | Review/Selection Process | Award Process | Project Management | FAQ


The Borders, Trade, and Immigration (BTI) Institute requests proposals for a project to address research questions related to the themes of Border Security and Immigration. Proposals are due to BTI on Friday, May 5, 2016, 11:59PM (Central). The anticipated project award will be up to $325,000. Applicants may propose projects with a duration of up to 24 months. Clear deliverables must be identified as funding is contingent on results.

Proposals will be reviewed by representatives from the academic/research community and DHS. Projects recommended for funding will be scored, ranked, and forwarded to DHS for final approval. Proposals that are highly collaborative and have strong potential for transition to the end user are encouraged.

The BTI Institute, led by the University of Houston, conducts research, develops innovative solutions, and provides educational materials to enhance the nation’s ability to secure our borders, facilitate legitimate trade and travel, and ensure the integrity of our immigration system.

Through a multi-disciplinary team of internationally-renowned experts, the BTI Institute delivers:

  • Transformational technology-driven solutions
  • Data-informed policies
  • Workforce development opportunities for today’s Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Trans-disciplinary education for the next generation of homeland security experts

More information on the BTI Institute may be found at



BTI seeks to address a number of research questions related to the themes of Border Security and Immigration that are of interest to the public and relevant federal, state, and local agencies. Questions of interest to this RFP are:

Theme Area 1: Border Security

Topic 1.a: Policies

  • 1.a.1. What challenges and opportunities do sovereignty, diplomacy, international law, and transnational actors present in securing international cooperation for interdiction and enforcement?
  • 1.a.2. In enhancing border security, what future challenges and opportunities are presented by sharing land borders with Canada and Mexico? What challenges and opportunities are presented by sharing air and sea borders with nearby Caribbean islands?
  • 1.a.3. How might terrorist organizations targeting the U.S exploit transnational criminal organizations?

Topic 1.b: Concept of operations

  • 1.b.1. What are suitable performance measures and metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of border security at the ports of entry that enable the appropriateness and statistical validity of each metric identified?
  • 1.b.2. How can CBP measure the deterrence value of scanning technology to prevent the smuggling of illegal goods or instruments of terror?

Topic 1c: Other impacts

  • 1.c.1. What can be learned from trafficking victims’ oral histories to help identify major factors for how victims are drawn into labor trafficking, the sex trade and domestic servitude? Can this inform the way DHS focuses its operational and awareness activities to reach potential victims and build stronger cases?
  • 1.c.2. How can DHS identify the factors that enable criminal traffickers to draw people into trafficking situations? Specifically, how can DHS begin to identify and outreach to ‘systemically vulnerable’ populations that are underrepresented in current discussions and ways that would-be-traffickers exploit these populations?
  • 1.c.3. What are new sources of information and innovative methods and metrics to estimate the number and characteristics of human trafficking victims? Of criminal traffickers?
  • 1.c.4. What useful historical information and trends can be derived from immigration, terrorism and illegal activities to enhance border security activities? For example, what can be learned from previous attempts to combat smuggling, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration? How can the effectiveness of these efforts be measured?


Theme Area 2: Immigration

Topic 2.a: Policies

  • 2.a.1. How do current policies affect the behavior of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.?
  • 2.a.2. Which is more effective for providing U.S. security: an immigration policy calibrated to threats originating in specific nations or one that treats all nations similarly?
  • 2.a.3. What effect have changes in U.S. immigration law and policy had on numbers of people applying for asylum, refugee status, visas, and citizenship?
  • 2.a.4. How do legal changes in the admissibility of immigrants impact future flows of migrants?
  • 2.a.5. What is the impact of detention and removal policies on illegal migrants and illegal migration flows? How effective are the current policies? What is the appropriate mix of detention and release to maximize deterrence of illegal immigration?
  • 2.a.6. What are the effects of various U.S. immigration law, policies, and practices, particularly those pertaining to repatriation and due process, on enforcement operations and effectiveness?
  • 2.a.7. What changes in law, policy, and/or procedures in granting admittance to the Visa Waver Program or approving non-immigrant visas are recommended in order to reduce the incidence of visa overstays and other immigration status violations?
  • 2.a.8. What can be learned from comparative studies of immigration systems and policies in comparable nations (such as Canada and the UK) and how do these policies affect national security and the effective administration of immigration?

Topic 2.b: Concepts of Operations

  • 2.b.1. What is the deterrence value of posting advisories at all ports of entry explaining, in explicit detail, the consequences of violating the terms of a U.S. visa?
  • 2.b.2. How might DHS better educate non-immigrants on the current administrative consequences and negative impact on future U.S. immigration benefit applications they may face for overstaying their period of admission?
  • 2.b.3. What are the most effective metrics to assess the numbers of illegal immigrants in the U.S.?
  • 2.b.4. How can we accurately predict the future magnitude of immigration flows to the U.S.? How do the following factors influence and/or accurate predict flows?
    • (a) Which economic, political or social variables allow us to most accurately predict immigration?
    • (b) What factors influence or potentially predict decisions by legal permanent residents (LPRs) to stay permanently in the U.S.?
    • (c) How do demographic and psycho-social characteristics affect the likelihood to naturalize?
    • (d) How do levels of political, civic, social, and economic integration among LPRs affect their naturalization decisions?
    • (e) How do immigrants feel that they are perceived by the native-born community? How does the context of reception impact decisions to pursue citizenship?
  • 2.b.5. How do integration practices and feelings of belongingness differ across immigrant communities?
  • 2.b.6. How do numerical immigration limits and ceilings affect illegal migration and legal immigrant applications?
  • 2.b.7. How effective are apprehension activities, such as the Consequence Delivery System (CDS), in deterring illegal migration?
  • 2.b.8. Are there ways to gather biographical data and immigration histories of individuals post encounter and prior to processing?

Topic 2.c: Other Impacts

  • 2.c.1. What are the evolving characteristics and demographics of the unauthorized population in the U.S. (e.g., age, gender, country of origin, income, education, profession, family ties, internet access, English language proficiency, etc.) and how are these characteristics changing over time?
  • 2.c.2. How do key socio-economic variables, such as English language proficiency and Internet access and usage, compare among immigrants in the U.S.?



C.1 Eligibility

Applications can be from an accredited U.S. college, U.S. university, for-profit organizations, or an organization that meets the definition of non-profit in OMB Circular A-122, relocated to 2 CFR Part 230. Exceptions:

  • Non-profit organizations described in Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that engage in lobbying activities as defined in Section 3 of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 are not eligible to apply.
  • Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) or laboratories funded by federal agencies are not eligible to apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation, regulations, and policies, are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role, and may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through awards made by this program.
  • Institution partnerships with foreign institutions are permitted, but may require special justification and approval from BTI.
  • For-Profit organizations intending to apply may not include profit margins in their cost.

C.2 Follow-on Award Information

Type of Award:

Cooperative Agreement Supplemental

Funding Range:

Up to $325,000

Anticipated Number of Awards:

No more than a single award

Project Length:

Up to 24 months

C.3 Due Dates

Application submission period will be closed on Friday, May 5, 2017 at 11:59 PM (Central Time).

C.4 Point of Contact

To promote fairness and avoid conflicts of interest, please use only the email address to communicate matters relating to this RFP before its due date. Please do not contact members of the BTI leadership directly with ideas and/or requests to partner.



All research conducted through BTI is intended to have publicly releasable results.  Accordingly, no research under this Award should involve, use, or generate sensitive information, which includes Personally Identifiable Information, and/or classified information.

Applicants should submit their proposals using the document package available via

Proposals must include the components outlined below. Use 11 point Arial font or larger, single spaced, 1” margins throughout (except for biosketches). Proposals that do not adhere to instructions, are incomplete or exceed page limits will NOT be reviewed.

D.1 Proposal Summary Form

  • Complete Proposal Summary Form provided.

D.2 Project Narrative

  • Not to exceed 10 pages, including figures but not counting Appendices
  • Proposals exceeding this limit will NOT be reviewed

Required sections to include in Project Narrative:

  1. Introduction and Rationale
  2. Primary Goal and Objectives
  3. Research Methodology and Tasks
  4. Milestones, Performance Metrics, and Deliverables (Outputs)
  5. Anticipated End User Engagement and Transition Approach
  6. Programmatic Risks and Mitigation Plans
  7. Personnel Qualifications Synopsis
  8. Available Resources, Facilities, and Leveraged Funding
  9. Literature Review (this section not to exceed 2 of the 10 pages devoted to the project narrative)

See Project Narrative Instructions document for detailed guidance on sections above.

Appendices to Project Narrative

Appendix A. References

  • Does not count against 10 page limit of Project Narrative

Appendix B. Compliance Assurances

  1. Data– The project should not rely on federal data sources. If the applicant is not the owner of the data to be used/generated by this project, please outline the purpose and characteristics of the data the project will acquire from third parties, their purpose and use, source and acquisition method (e.g., public domain, existing license, license available for purchase), and safety/retention plans.
  2. Human Subjects Research and ITAR/Export Controls– if applicable

See Compliance Assurances Form for detailed guidance on sections above.

D.3 Cost Information (no page limit)

  • Detailed Budget showing itemized direct costs as well as indirect costs
  • Budget Narrative/Justification

See Cost Information Instructions document for detailed guidance on sections above.

D.4 Biographical Sketch(es) for the PI and co-PI(s)

Attach PI and co-PI bio-sketch using NIH template (4-page maximum/bio).  See “Biographical Sketch Format Page” at:



Proposals must be submitted using an automated submission system.

  • Please go to this URL to sign up for a system account:
  • Once you fill out your contact information, the system will send you a link via email to activate your account.
  • When you sign in to your account for the first time, please click on the blue “View awards” button to access RFP-17-01.
  • Click on “Apply Now” and follow the instructions to complete the application form and upload your proposal PDF (both are required for a submission).

BTI reserves the right to amend the method of submission before the closing date. This RFP and all subsequent amendments (if any) are posted at the following URL:

and/or can be requested by email to



Reviewers from the academic/research community and DHS will evaluate the proposals. 

A merit-based evaluation criteria will be used to determine the award(s):  Scientific quality and relevance to DHS mission. 

Scientific Quality Review.  Reviewers will be asked to rate how the proposal addresses the following criteria, posed as questions.  Reviewers will rate applications using numerical ratings of 1 to 5 (poor to excellent) and apply the percentage-weighting factor as indicated for an overall rating. 

  1. Originality and/or Innovativeness (25%)
  • Is it original, e.g., does the proposed effort challenge and seek to shift current research or paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, inter-disciplinary approaches or methodologies?
  • Is it innovative, e.g., is the proposal a novel refinement, improvement, or new application of theoretical concepts, inter-disciplinary approaches or methodologies proposed?
  • Does this research have the potential to generate influential publications in the scientific community or lead to new discoveries or areas of investigation?
  1. Proposed Approach/Methodology (25%)
  • Are the research goals clear and based on sound theory?
  • Are the methods proposed clearly stated and appropriate for testing the hypotheses?
  • Are the data generation or collection approaches appropriate for the research methods?
  • Is the approach or methodology technically sound, incorporating inter-disciplinary expertise when appropriate, including a demonstrated understanding of the critical technology or engineering challenges required for achieving the project goals?
  1. Influence and Cooperative Linkages (25%)
  • Does the application show partnerships or cooperative initiatives with other institutions or organizations?
  • Does the application demonstrate a viable plan for developing substantial and continuing linkages with the Homeland Security Enterprise?
  1. Qualifications of Personnel and Suitability of Facilities (15%)
  • Does the investigative team have the breadth of qualifications - credentials and experience - to conduct and complete the proposed research?
  • Does the investigative team have prior experience in similar efforts and do they clearly demonstrate an ability to deliver products that meet the proposed technical performance within their proposed budget and schedule?
  • Are the facilities suitable for the proposed research?
  1. Costs (10%).
  • Are the proposed research (and/or education) costs appropriate and reasonable?

Relevancy Review. Reviewers will be asked to rate how the proposal addresses the following criteria, posed as questions. Reviewers will rate applications using numerical ratings of 1 to 5 (poor to excellent) and apply the percentage-weighting factor as indicated for an overall rating. 

  1. Mission Relevance (75%)
  • Does the proposed project address one or more of the research questions?
  • Does the proposed project complement - and not duplicate – existing research and development programs sponsored by DHS or others?
  • Are the potential research deliverables and users of the research well described?
  1. Communicating/Transitioning Results (25%)

Does the applicant have a track record of effectively communicating or successfully transitioning research results to appropriate stakeholders, specifically:

  • Will the research team be able to deploy a technology and/or solution(s) that can be transitioned effectively to the user community either through commercialization of the technology, open source distribution, or through other means?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate the implementation of an appropriate knowledge transfer process (e.g., models from case studies to other areas, patents) from academic to government end-users and other DHS customers?



Selected investigators will be notified by BTI and asked to produce a work plan for final approval by DHS. DHS may request further modifications before completing final approval of the project. The anticipated award date is early 2018.



DHS will assign to the selected project a Champion from a DHS component to assist with end user engagement through regular interaction with the project team (at least quarterly). BTI will also assign a Thrust Lead to the project to monitor progress through regular interaction (monthly calls and reports) and to assist with programmatic concerns.



May 2, 2017 update: An FAQ file RFP-17-01-FAQ is now available.