Costs at One Port of Entry = $15,000 per Screened Passenger

By David North on May 9, 2022

When we looked at the least-used port of entry on the border with Canada in November, we found that the port at Hannah, N.D., was spending a whopping $2,000 for every arriving passenger screened.

A more recent tally, for the months of January, February, and March, shows that the cost-per-passenger screening had soared to $15,000 a month.

In each of those months — though the port was open eight hours a day, and seven days a week — there were exactly two arrivals of passengers in private vehicles, or one every 15 days, for a total of six for the quarter. During the same period, 15 trucks arrived, or about one a week.

The second slowest port was also in North Dakota; Ambrose reported 53 passenger entries in the first three months of the year. We previously estimated that, assuming two agents on duty at all times, it costs about $1,000 a day, or about $30,000 a month to keep a port open.

If we are wrong about the two-person staffing — and DHS will not comment on whether it is one or two on the laughable grounds of “national security” — the cost per arriving passenger (all in cars) at Hannah would be $7,500 each.

The agency may have a policy of never letting a woman serve by herself in such situations, I don’t know. Keeping two people on hand at all times means the use of 14 person-days a week, and without expensive overtime, that would require nearly three agents, agents that could be far more useful on the southern border.

As the figure below shows, the number of passengers using the Hannah port has been falling steadily in recent years, decreasing by more than 90 percent from 2002 to 2018, and that was before Covid-19 struck. By 2021 there were only 81 such entries or fewer than two a week. Buses and trains do not go through this port, and year after year the pedestrian count is zero. There is no count for truck drivers, just for trucks.

A Failed Port of Entry: Passenger Crossings per Year at Hannah, N.D.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, “Border Crossing Entry Data”. Select “Hannah” under “Port Name” and “Personal Vehicle Passengers” under “Measures”.

* Covid-impacted periods. ** First three months.

There are other ports of entry about 20 miles to the west and east of Hannah that could easily handle the diverted traffic. Another possibility would be to reduce the days it is open from seven to five, saving the services of one inspector.

But DHS apparently finds it easier to waste money on such ports than to do anything about it.

I will try to remember to look in on the Hannah traffic this summer, maybe it will be up to one arrival a day!