Nikki Haley previously said it was 'disrespectful' and 'cold-hearted' to call illegal migrants 'criminals'

 January 4, 2024

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley's previously soft stance toward illegal immigration has now come back to haunt her as she tries to talk tough toward those who violate the nation's immigration laws, Breitbart reported.

In 2015, the then-South Carolina governor said it was "disrespectful" for American citizens to refer to illegal immigrants as "criminals" and urged everyone to be more compassionate and less "cold-hearted" toward migrants coming into the United States.

Now, however, the former United Nations ambassador is promising a strict "catch and deport" policy if elected and criminal punishments for not just illegal immigrants but also the U.S. businesses that hire them.

Haley's prior compassionate stance toward migrants

Shortly after then-businessman Donald Trump entered the Republican primary race in 2015 with his tough rhetoric against illegal immigration, then-Gov. Haley participated in an Aspen Institute event that featured a "conversation with Republican governors," during which she was asked as a child of immigrants for her thoughts on the recent shift in the "tone of the immigration debate."

"So I think that what we have to remember and what I’ve always believed is that we’re a country of laws. That is what’s made us strong so it’s incredibly frustrating for a lot of people when they see the illegal immigrants being able to come across," Haley said. "It really is astonishing that after all these years, D.C. can’t figure out how to build a wall. It really is, after all of what they spend."

"Having said that, we are a country of immigrants. I am the proud daughter of Indian parents who reminded us every day how blessed we are to live in this country. They resent when people come here illegally," she continued. "But let’s keep in mind, these people who are wanting to come here, they’re wanting to come for a better life too. They have kids too. They have a heart too, so we don’t need to be disrespectful. We don’t need to talk about them as criminals, they’re not. They’re families that want a better life and they’re desperate to get here."

"What we need to do is make sure we have a set of laws that we follow and we go through with that," Haley added before taking a subtle shot at Trump, who she initially opposed before later serving in his administration. "I think that some things have been said that are unfortunate and wrong but I think we also need to remember, especially for all of us … tone and communication matters and people matter. We don’t ever need to talk about this in a cold-hearted way … be kinder than necessary."

Haley's "catch and deport" plan and penalties for businesses that hire illegals

Breitbart contrasted what former Gov. Haley said then with what former Ambassador Haley has said more recently about illegal immigration and found a noticeable difference in her "tone and communication" on the subject of illegal immigration.

In an April 2023 interview with Breitbart following a visit to the southern border, Haley was sharply critical of President Joe Biden's lax enforcement of border security and immigration laws and particularly called out his "catch and release" policy toward apprehended illegal migrants as needing to be changed immediately.

"What we need to do is when you catch them, you deport them back from where they came. You can’t allow them in this country," Haley said. "My parents always said, 'If someone doesn’t follow the law to come into this country, they won’t follow the law when they get into this country.' We have got to stop the bleeding."

"And so that’s the first stop that we have to do -- is to stop that catch and release, and let all of these illegal immigrants know, when you come into this country illegally, you’re going to be deported immediately. That’s the biggest deterrent we can do to make sure they understand," she continued.

Haley also vowed to mandate that businesses use the government's E-Verify system to check the immigration status of new hires, which "puts the business on the hook that if they hire somebody illegally, they get punished for that, and it’s considered a crime. So they pay a punishment, they pay a penalty, and get written up," and added, "When you go and you put the businesses on the hook, then all of a sudden there’s another qualifier that keeps illegal immigrants from coming in."

Haley now sits in a distant second in polls

It is unclear how much Haley's fairly recent shift to talk tough on illegal immigration has helped her presidential campaign but it is worth noting that she has recently surpassed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has long stood tough against illegal immigration, to hold a distant second place well behind former President Trump in the 2024 GOP primary race.

According to RealClearPolling's average of GOP primary polls, Trump sits in first place with around 62.7% support while Haley trails by 51.7 points in second place with 11% support, just a tick above DeSantis with 10.9% support among Republican voters, the vast majority for whom illegal immigration has always been an issue that demands toughness.

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