S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley shared the stage this month with six Republican presidential candidates who question the constitutional amendment that made her a U.S. citizen on the day that she was born in Bamberg.
Immigration — including allowing automatic citizenship for children born in the United States, so-called “anchor babies” — has become a central issue in the campaign for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
That puts Haley, a rising GOP star and possible vice presidential pick, in a delicate spot.
Haley’s parents were Indian immigrants who did not become U.S. citizens until after her birth in 1972. Her father, Ajit Randhawa, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1978, Haley’s office said. Her mother, Raj Randhawa, became a U.S. citizen in 2003, a year before Haley won a seat in the S.C. House.
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Haley, as governor of the state with the South’s first presidential primary, is a pivotal figure in the GOP race, where most of the 15-candidate field opposes birthright citizenship.
She co-hosted a forum with 10 GOP White House hopefuls on Sept. 18 in Greenville, including a half-dozen who have said they want to re-examine the 14th Amendment, which gives automatic U.S. citizenship to children of immigrants who are born in this country.
Opponents of birthright citizenship at the forum were: retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who also was born in the United States to Indian immigrants who were not yet U.S. citizens.
Two other Republican presidential candidates who were not at the Greenville forum —front-runner Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Haley ally — also have questioned birthright citizenship.
“I want you to be attached to America on our terms, not yours,” Graham said on a Fox Business interview last month.
The anti-birthright GOP hopefuls complain about undocumented immigrants having babies in the country as well as foreigners who travel to the United State to give birth so their children will become U.S. citizens.
Haley has said that she favors controls on undocumented immigrants, noting her parents came to the United States legally.
"The governor believes the nearly 150-year old constitutional guarantee of citizenship to children born in America has served our country very well and should continue for those who enter our country legally,” Haley press secretary Chaney Adams said.
“While she appreciates discussion of the issue of birthright citizenship, she believes it's one that distracts from the serious problem Washington politicians, including members of Congress and presidents, have for years failed to address, and that's illegal immigration. Once we get illegal immigration under control, the citizenship question will be a non-issue, as it was for most of the last 150 years.”
Fight continues for Walker’s SC backers
A trio of S.C. Republican lawmakers who backed Scott Walker’s presidential bid said they got surprise calls from former Florida Gov. Job Bush Tuesday, the day after the Wisconsin governor dropped out of the GOP race.
What did Bush have to say?
“He said he was going spend a lot time in South Carolina, and he was going to be focusing on the state,” state Rep. Ralph Norman of York said.
Rep. Joshua Putnam said Bush told him that he appreciated Walker’s leadership and vision. “And he would be honored to earn my support and, then, he talked about his record,” the Anderson lawmaker said.
Walker’s departure from the race Monday put 45 S.C. campaign organizers into play.
At least one Walker backer, Lance Byars of Greer, announced last week that he has switched his support to Bush. Most others — including the three state lawmakers — are taking another look around before choosing a new White House hopeful.
“I don’t want it to be a waste time and money,” said Sharon Bynum, a S.C. State Board of Education member from Fort Mill.
Norman, Anderson and Rep. Garry Smith of Greenville said they also got calls from fellow lawmakers backing GOP candidates Carly Fiorina, John Kasich and Paul. Officials from the Carson and Marco Rubio campaigns also reached out.
“It’s flattering,” Putnam said. “It shows South Carolina is an important part of the game.”
Dan Tripp, a former state lawmaker who ran Walker’s campaign in South Carolina, also is waiting before deciding who he now will back. “I’m trying to catch up on a lot of sleep right now.”
2016 in SC
Bush: Speaking at a Conservative Leadership Project forum with S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson at Furman University in Greenville, 2:30 p.m. Friday
Fiorina: Speaking at U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s town-hall meeting on the USC-Aiken campus, noon Friday
Graham: Speaking at another Scott’s town-hall meeting at the Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach, 11:30 a.m. Monday
Kelley Paul: Wife of Sen. Paul will attend a Hilton Head Island Women's Club lunch, 11: 30 a.m. Monday, and a Richland County Republican Party meeting at Doc’s Barbecue in Columbia, 5:30 p.m. Monday; also, she file for her husband to run in the GOP primary at S.C. Republican headquarters in Columbia, 8:45 a.m. Tuesday