Voters are increasingly worried about border security, and candidates on the campaign trail are listening to these concerns.
A common question that voters raised at many campaign stops throughout Iowa was: “How do you plan on closing the southern border?”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have pledged that securing the border would be the No. 1 priority if elected to the White House.
At a town hall on Sunday in Altoona, Iowa, Haley fed her stump speech to Iowans, revealing how she feels about the current U.S.-Mexico border.
“I truly have run out of things to say about the border. This is a dereliction of duty. It’s horrific to see what’s happening on the southern border and the northern border,” said Haley. “Securing the border is job No. 1, priority No. 1.”
The same day, one hour east of Haley, DeSantis gave a similar message on his border stance to a room full of voters in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“We’re pretty busy on day one because there’s a lot that we need to do. One, we’re going to declare the border to be a national emergency,” said DeSantis.
Voters continue to mention the border as a top priority. A new Fox News poll shows that 8 in 10 voters are calling immigration/border security either an emergency or a major problem.
Donna Cox of Cleveland says securing the border is the top issue she cares about when deciding who to vote for in the GOP primary.
“My No. 1 priority in this next election is border security. It’s not just Latin America that’s coming across. It’s the Middle East. It’s China. I think that we’re a ticking time bomb,” said Cox.
When asked about the current situation at the southern border, she described it as “chaotic, uncontrolled, open, free-for-all, dangerous.”
“David” of Oskaloosa agreed. He called on the government to stop the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The worst it’s ever been, the border is wide open. It’s a train wreck,” he said.
Iowa voters have just under one month to weigh their options for Republican candidates ahead of the first-in-the-nation caucus. The latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll showed DeSantis at 19% and Haley at 16% in Iowa. Both are trailing far behind front-runner former President Trump, who sits comfortably at 51% in the poll.
During a press conference in Corydon, Iowa, DeSantis said that the effects of the southern border crisis are felt in every state.
“Even in a rural community far away from the southern border, you’re seeing the effects of that, not just in terms of the narcotics and the drugs but also in terms of some of the problems that flow from that,” said DeSantis.
During a sheriff’s ride-along with Fox News, the Sunshine State governor talked about these effects. Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputy Garrett Abel led the ride-along and drove by one of many drug houses in Iowa that he has busted, sparking conversations about drug abuse in the country.
“For young people with drugs now, if there’s fentanyl laced [in] these drugs, I mean, it can be all she wrote,” said DeSantis during the ride-along. “They can get poisoned to death just on one use of drugs. The stakes are a lot higher than they were in the past.”
John Heckelsmiller from Ottumwa, Iowa, said he sees the ramifications of the southern border first-hand in Iowa.
“We’ve got influx of migrants in Ottumwa, and it’s evident everywhere you go that there’s people coming into this country that maybe shouldn’t be here because they didn’t enter legally,” said Heckelsmiller.
When asked by reporters for a specific timeline for building a border wall as president, DeSantis stated his plan to do so but didn’t provide specifics.
“My job is to get it done and I will get it done, and it has not gotten done, and we will do it, and we’ll start on day one and we won’t stop until it’s done,” he said.
Cox says that while she supports DeSantis, it’s important to her that whoever ends up in the White House addresses border security.
“Day one, anybody who takes this office has to attack the border,” said Cox.