Haley: Treating Undocumented Migrants As ‘Criminals’ Is ‘Disrespectful’
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has been building momentum ahead of early-voting GOP presidential primary states, but several statements she has made on the campaign trail as well as past remarks that have resurfaced in recent months have alienated a wide swath of Republican voters.
As she jockeys with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for a distant second place behind front-runner Donald Trump with just days left until the Iowa caucuses, a speech she delivered in 2015 is now coming back to bite her.
In a clip posted by a pro-Trump group on social media, Haley can be heard urging Americans to refrain from treating those who enter the U.S. illegally as “criminals” despite their violation of the nation’s immigration laws.
“Let’s keep in mind: These people that are wanting to come here, they want to come for a better life, too,” she said. “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.”
Her tacit endorsement of open borders was particularly off-putting to many conservatives amid the record level of illegal immigration that has plagued border states and communities nationwide since President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
The clip elicited widespread condemnation, including from fellow GOP White House hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy.
Strongly disagree. https://t.co/ICGLo8FHUp
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) January 4, 2024
In their full context, Haley’s remarks did offer some support for border security — including the construction of a wall — to prevent the flow of undocumented migrants into the country.
“We have to always be a country of laws,” she said. “So it’s incredibly frustrating for a lot of people when they see the illegal immigrants being able to come across. It really is astonishing that after all these years, D.C. hasn’t figured out how to build a wall. It really is, after all of what they spend.”
The Haley campaign took exception to the prevailing characterization of her comments by political adversaries.
“She passed one of the toughest anti-illegal immigration bills in the country in 2011 when Trump was still a Democrat,” asserted spokesperson AnnMarie Graham-Barnes. “She has also said she has a different style and approach from Trump and doesn’t always agree with his incendiary language. Trump should spend more time explaining why he never fulfilled his signature promise to build a wall instead of desperately trying to mislead voters with lies.”