Could DHS Save Money by Using Ice Bridge Technology in the Dakotas?

By David North on February 15, 2023

Could the Department of Homeland Security use its Drummond Island Ice Bridge technology to save money on its little-used ports of entry in the Dakotas? I believe it could.

Before we go further, some background information is needed.

As to the ports of entry, the U.S. government fully staffs rarely used entry ports across roads heading south from Canada into North Dakota. Sometimes these ports, each with an average of three employees, are open eight hours a day, seven days a week, all year, and see as few as two entrants a month. The risks of illegal aliens attempting to enter the U.S. via the Hannah or Ambrose (both North Dakota) ports, at least in the winter, are minuscule.

Meanwhile, also on the northern border, there is the seasonal use of an ice bridge in the upper reaches of Lake Huron at this time of year that allows people on snowmobiles to move from a Canadian island, St. Josephs, to the lightly populated Drummond Island in the U.S. Apparently, people on both islands get a kick out of the snowmobile trips running across the ice when it is solidly enough frozen to do so in safety. Someone even sets up pathways, sometimes marked with used Christmas trees, to identify the safe ice.

Do some of those heading to Drummond abandon their snowmobiles, walk six or seven miles across the island, and then take the car ferry to the eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on their way into the U.S. interior? That’s theoretically possible, but unlikely. And how many illegal aliens in Canada know that such a route exists for a few weeks each winter? Few to none.

So, what is the connection between the little-used ports of entry on the western plains and the Drummond Island ice bridge?

It is the government’s own labor-saving technology used on the islands that is not used on the prairies. This is how Customs and Border Protection handles the snowmobile traffic:

To use [the ROAM] application, travelers are required to input their biographic information, along with conveyance and trip details, and submit their trip for CBP review; a CBP officer may initiate a video chat if more information is needed. Once the trip is reviewed, travelers will receive a push notification and an email with their admissibility decision. If it is determined that an in-person inspection is necessary, snowmobilers may be directed to an alternative site, where the inspection will be completed by CBP officers from Sault Ste. Marie. Use of ROAM is limited to snowmobilers traveling in the Eastern Upper Peninsula region only at this time.

In other words, the vast majority of the snowmobile drivers and passengers never see a CPB officer, and the agency does not have to staff this little-used (and harmless) entryway to a very remote part of the U.S. An officer in a distant headquarters could handle these ROAMers in between tackling other duties.

Why not use the same technique at Hannah and Ambrose? If there is a suspicious up-tick in traffic, the customary system can be quickly restored. Best of all it is the use of a technique invented by CBP — and not foisted on them by some external authority.

And CBP could move half a dozen officers, now essentially well-paid but useless, to the southern border where they are badly needed.

The officers may not welcome the suggestion, but a rather larger population, the taxpayers, would if they knew about it.