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Saturday, June 15th, 2024

Poliquin: Challenges to protecting Maine northern border highlight need for tough security

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) recently said that the challenges of protecting the state’s wild and rugged 611-mile border with Canada highlight the need for a tougher stance on border security from the U.S. administration.

“It would be very easy for someone to slip in or out of the country between border crossings,” Poliquin said in a recent interview with Homeland Preparedness News.

Because Canada is Maine’s largest trading partner and one-third of the state’s population has family roots in Canada, somewhat of a balancing act is required when securing the border, Poliquin said.

“We have to keep business flowing and we have to keep families connected, but at the same time we have to be very aware of the mostly unprotected northern border,” Poliquin said.

Poliquin toured the Maine-Canadian border by helicopter with U.S. Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan last week. The two officials also toured the Houlton Sector Border Patrol Headquarters facilities and participated in a roundtable discussion with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials and local law enforcement members working on the border.

The U.S. border patrol maintains six stations in Maine. Interoperable communication is essential, particularly given the challenging terrain of the Maine border, much of which is wilderness, mountainous, rural or coastal.

Poliquin said that he learned from the discussions that communication among various public safety entities in Maine work efficiently.

“If we have a suspected entrant in our state, information can be shared among all of our law enforcement officials very quickly and very seamlessly,” Poliquin said. 

Security cameras cover many isolated parts of the northern border, but if every Maine border patrol official were to work in the field at the same time, there would be just one officer for every 20 miles, Poliquin said. In the event of a suspected problem, border patrol needs to be able to contact state or local law enforcement for help.

To aid with data-sharing between the various branches of law enforcement, some police departments in Maine, including the Bar Harbor Police Department in Poliquin’s district, contracted with Spillman Technologies as their public safety software provider earlier this year.

Poliquin, who serves as a member of the Congressional Northern Border Caucus, said that border security has not been taken seriously enough by the current administration.

“We need to have an administration that puts border security as a priority,” Poliquin said.

In order to bolster national security and strengthen the U.S. borders, Poliquin said that tight restrictions on the visa travel program are necessary.

“You can no longer hop on a plane with a passport and a plane ticket and come to America if you are from a country that does not share with us criminal or terrorist activity,” Poliquin added.

Poliquin has also advocated for stricter policies, with a more thorough vetting process, toward admitting refugees from Middle Eastern countries into the United States.

Poliquin also warned that the refugee policies in neighboring Canada could impact security at the U.S. border. The Canadian government is on track to admit more than 60,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016 or early 2017. An estimated 75 percent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S. border.