Canadian consul general tells NH: The northern border is working

House Speaker Sherman Packard (right) honors Canadian Consul General in Boston Bernadette Jordan (center) shortly after Jordan delivered a speech to the New Hampshire House on Feb. 8. 

House Speaker Sherman Packard (right) honors Canadian Consul General in Boston Bernadette Jordan (center) shortly after Jordan delivered a speech to the New Hampshire House on Feb. 8.  ETHAN DEWITT / New Hampshire Bulletin

By ETHAN DEWITT

New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 02-13-2024 3:43 PM

Canadian Consul General for New England Bernadette Jordan has a message for New Hampshire residents: “I think our border’s working very well.”

The federal official, who was appointed to the post in the Boston consulate in December, said the U.S. and Canada are continually working to address the challenges posed by higher numbers of border crossings.

“I guess my fear would be that if we put more stringent measures in, how it impacts all of the other things that we have for that border,” she said. “You know, whether it’s tourism, whether it’s trade, whether it’s people visiting families. We can’t impede that. But we still have to make sure that what we’re doing is still working. It does seem to be working.”

The comments came in an interview with the Bulletin Thursday, shortly after Jordan addressed the New Hampshire House of Representatives, urging members to support traditional areas of cooperation in trade, security, and border enforcement.

And they were made as leading Republicans in the state have argued the need to strengthen enforcement along the northern border. Last year, Gov. Chris Sununu signed a budget that would devote $1.4 million to creating a Northern Border Alliance Task Force, made up of state police, forest rangers, Fish and Game enforcement, and local law enforcement that would patrol the area of the state within 25 miles of the Canadian border.

This year, amid heated races in both parties to replace Sununu, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and former Senate President Chuck Morse have made the northern border a key issue of their campaigns.

Those efforts have been divisive; Democrats and other advocates have countered that the focus on the northern border is a waste of resources.

In late January, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire released the number of New Hampshire-specific border apprehensions obtained after suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Freedom of Information Act. The lawsuit revealed just 21 apprehensions over New Hampshire’s border over 15 months – between October 2022 and December 2023, with the majority occurring in June and September 2023.

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“With data finally available, there are renewed questions over the $1.4 million in taxpayer funds being used for massive expansion of policing and surveillance in northern New Hampshire,” the ACLU wrote in a press release.

Senate President Jeb Bradley dismissed the numbers, arguing that the apprehensions would rise when the state increased its patrols. He also noted that the Swanton Sector – the area of U.S. Customs and Border Protection enforcement that encompasses New York, Vermont, and Maine – had seen a 600 percent increase in illegal border activity since 2021.

“The ACLU supports open border policies and Senate Republicans will not allow open border activists to downplay this issue,” Bradley said in a statement Jan. 31. “We have a border crisis. We have drugs, human trafficking, and crime occurring on both borders.”

Jordan agreed that border apprehensions have increased, but she noted that legal border crossings have also increased. Cross-border traffic is still recovering to its pre-pandemic levels after the border was closed during COVID-19.

“It just shows: If there are apprehensions, it’s working,” she said of the border enforcement. “People are being stopped.”

Speaking to the House to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Boston Canadian Consulate, Jordan emphasized the longstanding cross-border connections between Granite Staters and eastern Canada, highlighting sports teams and musicians who traverse the border – or New England firefighters who traveled north to help battle wildfires in Quebec and Nova Scotia in 2023.

“For Canada, the path to successfully meeting these challenges runs straight through the U.S.,” she said. “And for the US, the path to success runs straight through Canada.”