MANCHESTER, N.H. — Security on the Canada-U.S. border has become a topic of discussion among Republican presidential candidates.
While former President Donald Trump focused on border security in a broad sense, his only remaining Republican contender, Nikki Haley, went a step further by naming America’s northern border as the issue.
In a campaign rally on Jan.19 in Manchester, N.H., she placed the issue above foreign policy priorities such as supporting Ukraine and Israel in their respective wars.
“Securing our border is priority number one, no more excuses,” Haley said.
She was not the first Republican candidate to focus on the northern border issue as now former Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy raised it as an issue earlier in his campaign.
He posted an official campaign video outlining the potential security issues of the Canada-U.S. border from the border crossing station in Pittsburg, N.H.
He questioned the need for border customs offices when there are accessible forests and trails surrounding them, making illegally crossing the border an easy task.
“As an institution, it would just be better off and more honest if we didn’t have this whole barbed wire charade in the first place,” Ramaswamy said.
The issue also brings forth critics from another perspective, including Democratic Congresswoman Annie Kuster.
Kuster said the issue is a non-starter and described it as being a part of the greater narrative of xenophobia amongst Republicans.
She also described how Republicans see America being overrun.
“This is not a thing, but they’ve started talking about it as if it is,” Kuster said.
Political Scientist Brendan Nyhan, a presidential professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., has studied multiple American presidential races in the past.
He recognized the attention that has been brought to the issue of the northern border but feels it is far more subdued compared to security on the southern border.
“The northern border is a far less salient issue than the southern border in the U.S., but it’s becoming more salient,” Nyhan said.
The northern border being a lesser-known issue was also the sentiment of some voters in New Hampshire on Tuesday when they went to the ballot box.
Amanda Smith, an American voter, shared the same point of view as Congresswoman Kuster, that the issue is more of a race issue than one about border security.
She said that for this reason, the focus among American voters when it comes to border security is on the southern border rather than the northern one.
“I have never discussed with a voter or anyone I know the Canadian-U.S. border,” Smith said.
“That’s just not something that comes up, as opposed to illegal immigration that is coming through our ports of entry, like airports or so forth or from the southern border,” she said.
Jane Haigh, another voter, agreed, saying the northern border was a non-issue.
“According to the polls I’ve seen, nobody thinks it’s a big deal,” Haigh said.
And polls seemed to support Haigh’s statement.
A Jan. 10 poll from the Boston Globe and USA Today showed 61 per cent of New Hampshire voters were either not very or not concerned about border security on New Hampshire’s border with Canada.
But the poll does show Republican voters in New Hampshire are siding with those like Haley and Ramaswamy when it comes to the northern border, with 64 per cent of them showing some degree of concern.
Only 10 per cent of Democratic voters and 37 per cent of independent voters in New Hampshire had some concern, showing this is a more one-sided issue.