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Scott Walker: Wall between U.S. and Canada a 'legitimate' idea

Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker this weekend said it's a "legitimate" idea to consider building a wall between the United States and Canada to deter terrorists.

In a 30-minute taped interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, Walker emphasized his desire to "secure" the country's borders to boost safety from terrorists, focusing on the southern border with Mexico. But when pressed by Todd, Walker said extending that effort to the country's 5,525-mile border with Canada is worth looking into.

"Why are we always talking about the southern border and a fence there? We don't talk about a northern border — where, if this is about securing the border from potentially terrorists coming over," Todd said, asking Walker if he would build a wall on the northern border, too.

"Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire," Walker responded.  "They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So, that is a legitimate issue for us to look at."

Walker and other GOP candidates seeking the 2016 presidential nomination have focused heavily on immigration issues — especially frontrunner Donald Trump, who has called for a wall to be built between the U.S. and Mexico and that Mexico should pay for it. 

But secure borders also help fight terrorists, Walker told cadets at The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. on Friday while laying out his foreign policy agenda. This element of his plan prompted Todd's questions about the lack of campaign rhetoric about also securing the country's northern border with Canada.

In December of 1999, a 34-year-old Algerian man living in Montreal, Canada who planned to bomb the Los Angeles International airport was arrested in Port Angeles, Washington while trying to cross the border into the U.S.

In the interview, Walker also dismissed a recent Marquette University poll that showed 39 percent of Wisconsin residents approve of Walker's job performance. Fellow 2016 GOP hopeful Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a job approval rating of 61 percent, Todd gave as a comparison.

"You should want someone who doesn’t care about the next election — they care about the next generation. That’s the difference," Walker said in response. "I went out and pushed big, bold reforms in my first term — I haven’t let up. I’m the kind of leader that’s going to go out and say 'I don’t care about the next election, I care what’s right for the next generation.'" 

Walker also was asked about statistics showing life for black residents of Wisconsin is significantly different than it is for white residents. Wisconsin has the highest rate of incarceration for black males, ranks last in the country in quality of life for black children and the unemployment rate for black residents of Wisconsin is double the national average.

"It's the sad truth — it’s been true for decades," said Walker, who served as Milwaukee County Executive before being elected governor in 2010. "And part of it is, I think, some of the poor policies in the city of Milwaukee."

Walker then touted the state's school voucher program — saying it gave "African-American, Latino and other families the ability to get beyond some of the schools in those neighborhoods that weren’t living up to those standards."

He said the wide racial disparities in the state also fueled the decision to pursue his landmark collective bargaining measure known as Act 10, saying it allowed school districts to keep good teachers. 

Walker then told the story of Wauwatosa teacher Megan Sampson: who was laid off in 2010 by the Milwaukee School District after her first year of teaching, despite being an award-winning English teacher. Walker said Act 10 allowed school districts to get rid of seniority rules often found in union employment contracts. 

Sampson has repeatedly objected to Walker's use of her story while campaigning. In the NBC interview, he didn't use her name while telling the story.