As Governor, Haley Opposed Obama on Immigration. Now, She’s in Opposition to Trump

Credits: The Hill

In the early days of her tenure as governor, Nikki Haley endorsed and signed one of the most stringent immigration bills in the United States.

Similar to Arizona’s controversial “show me your papers” law, the most contentious provision in South Carolina’s legislation mandated that law enforcement check individuals’ legal status during stops if there was suspicion of illegal residence. Critics raised concerns about potential racial profiling.

Haley, drawing on her personal background as the daughter of legal immigrants, emphasized that the law was not about intolerance but about upholding existing laws.

Nikki Haley (Credits: The Guardian)

“This enforces the fact that illegal immigration is not welcome in South Carolina,” Haley stated at a press conference after signing the bill. “Legal immigration is more than welcome.”

Over a decade later, Haley’s immigration stance is facing scrutiny as former President Donald Trump makes border policy a focal point in his bid to secure the GOP presidential nomination and challenge President Joe Biden in the general election.

Trump and his allies are attempting to portray Haley as weak on border security, prompting the former South Carolina governor to counter by highlighting both her state’s immigration record and her vision for federal policy.

In recent weeks, Haley criticized Trump for rejecting a bipartisan border agreement and postponing reforms until after the election.

She highlighted her firsthand experience on the US-Mexico border, presenting a comprehensive plan that involves bolstering border patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel, defunding sanctuary cities, and intensifying deportation efforts.

Haley emphasized that during her governorship, South Carolina resisted challenges from a former Democratic president. “At the rally in Aiken, South Carolina, last week,” Haley stated, “we passed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country. President Obama sued us over it, and we won.”

Although certain provisions of the 2011 law were blocked by the courts – with restrictions on questioning legal status and preventing officers from detaining people without cause – crucial elements remained in force.

The legislation enhanced regulations related to employers using the federal E-Verify database to verify employees’ legal work status and established an Immigration Enforcement Unit targeting undocumented immigrants suspected of criminal activities.

“We need to take what we did in South Carolina and go national with it,” Haley declared in a digital ad released on Monday.

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