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Transcript: Nikki Haley on "Face the Nation," May 14, 2023

Haley against Trump-era immigration policies
GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley says "we shouldn't be separating families" at border 10:11

The following is the transcript of an interview with former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, that aired on "Face the Nation" on May 14, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to begin with former South Carolina governor and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley. Good morning to you.

NIKKI HALEY: Good morning. Happy Mother's Day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Happy Mother's Day to you as well. I want to start with the issue of the day, what's happening at the border. The Biden administration has done a number of things. They've restricted asylum, barring migrants who appear at a port of entry without first having asked for refuge in a third country. If they try to enter without permission, they face a five year ban. They've increased deportation flights and they plan to open processing centers in Latin America. Do you support any of that?

HALEY: I'm just surprised it took him so long. You know, if you look at the fact that it wasn't broken to start with, they broke it. Five million illegal immigrants have crossed the border. I went with Congressman Gonzales 400 miles along that border. And what I saw was unbelievable. You have ranchers that get up and get their coffee in the morning and go see if someone died crossing the fence. They pick up any little kids left over and take them to Border Patrol. When you talk to sheriffs, sheriffs say before 7 a.m. they've rounded up illegal immigrants, turn them over to Border Patrol who documents them and then releases them until their court date three or four years from now. You ask Border Patrol what they do and they said we're glorified babysitters. We need to let them do their job. We've gotta enforce some things. And we should do what I did when I was governor, which is pass one of the toughest immigration laws in the country and do a mandatory e-verify program that says no businesses can hire anyone that's in this country illegally.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Just for context, there is a global migration crisis as- as you know. But for decades, Congress has failed to enact any kind of significant immigration reform, including during the Trump administration when there was unified Republican control. How different would it be? Why would it be any different if you were in charge?

HALEY: Well, first of all, I'll tell you, this is a crisis created by Republicans and Democrats. This very much should have been dealt with a long time ago and it wasn't. What I would do is first of all do the mandatory e-verify. I would defund sanctuary cities. I would go back to remain in Mexico because no one wants to remain in Mexico. I would fire the 87,000 IRS agents that are going after Middle America and put 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents on the ground. And instead of catch and release, let's go to catch and deport. We have to be serious about the fact that we are a country of laws. And the second we stop being a country of laws, we give up everything this country was founded on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But as you know, deportation is problematic to countries where the U.S. has strained relations like Venezuela and Cuba so even if you catch, you can't necessarily deport. So for Cuba and Venezuela, would you keep those Trump era sanctions on those countries which are already economically distressed? And some would say the sanctions make it even worse sending migrants here.

HALEY: We always want to take care of people who have been persecuted, but we've got to take care of Americans first. We've got to start looking at the fact that every state's a border state, that we've had enough fentanyl cross the border that would kill every single American. The number one cause of death for adults 18 to 49 is fentanyl. Why don't we focus on that first? We can't take care of anybody else if we can't take care of ourselves. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would keep the sanctions on those countries is what I hear.

HALEY:  I think- I think we need to stop the bleeding of the border and completely do immigration reform before we can think of taking anybody else into this country. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: How would you change America's asylum policies? Because many of those people coming to these ports of entries are doing it legally, they are asking for protection.

HALEY: Well, I think there's legal immigration that we can focus on at the same time. And I think that needs to be focused on what does our country need. Let's do it by merit. Let's do it by talent. Let's do it based on what the businesses need. But let's not do it just because people happen to cross the fence and get away. Let's not do it because we have crowded facilities and we can't hold anymore. That's the wrong way to go about it. We have to make sure this is a national security issue. We have to vet them, we have to know exactly who's coming in here. Iran has said that the easiest way to get into America is through the southern border. We shouldn't wait for another 9/11 to realize that Republicans and Democrats have to get in a room and figure out immigration reform and start working for the American people instead of the other way around.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you revive President Trump's policy of separating migrant children from their parents as deterrence?

HALEY: It should never get to that point. No, we should not be separating families, but we shouldn't be taking families that we don't have any control over. That's the biggest issue is no one wants to be inhumane about this. I saw when I was at the United Nations what happens to these people who are trafficked. I mean, if a child loses a shoe, they just leave the child there. If a person gets sick, they leave them to die. So we shouldn't be saying- waving the green flag in the first place. This started when Biden took office and said America is open. We never should have had that happen.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, migration has been spiking for years now. But let me ask you about another issue and that is abortion. It is legal in your state of South Carolina up to 20 weeks post conception, which is a law that you signed back in 2016 when you were the governor. There are exceptions if a mother's life is in danger or the fetus cannot survive. Do you want that to be the national standard?

HALEY: Well, I don't want unelected justices to be deciding something this personal. I have long said I am pro-life not because the Republican Party tells me to be, but because my husband was adopted. But having said that, I think what happened when it went back to the states now there could be consensus in each state. You know, there's some states that have been pro-life, I welcome that. There are some states that have erred on the side of abortion. I wish that wasn't the case, but it is. I think that we need to make sure that people's voices are heard. And I think we need to do this from a humanizing standpoint and not a demonizing standpoint, which is done in the past.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so the law you pass in South Carolina, you would not necessarily want as the national standard.

HALEY: Well, the law in South Carolina was the furthest we could get it at the time. That was before Roe was overturned. For a national standard, I think we have to tell the American people the truth. In order to do a national standard, you'd have to have a majority of the House, 60 Senate votes, and a president. We haven't had 60 pro-life senators in 100 years. So the idea that a Republican president could ban all abortions is not being honest with the American people, any more than a Democrat president could ban these pro-life laws in the states. So let's be honest with the American people and say, let's find national consensus. Let's agree on, you know, getting rid of late-term abortions. Let's agree on the fact that we need more adoptions. Let's agree on the fact that we need accessible contraception. Let's agree on the fact that mothers shouldn't be jailed or go to, you know, get the death penalty for abortions. But I'll also ask you, let's go and if we're going to talk about weeks, ask Kamala and Biden, are they good for 35 weeks? 36 weeks? 37 weeks? At what point, are they okay?


HALEY: Because up until now they were up for abortion up until the time of birth. Is that- is that what they think the national standard should be–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, President Biden said he would sign Roe into law which would be up to the point of fetal viability, which was roughly assumed to be about 24 weeks. The majority of abortions are performed–

HALEY: Which is six months. Which is six months, which is late-term abortion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The majority of abortions are performed under 13 weeks. Two of your fellow South Carolinians, including one that's going to run for president, Tim Scott, we think, has said that he would sign into law abortion protections up to the 20th week. So he is picking a week. Some of your fellow Republicans are why do you feel like that's misdirection?

HALEY: I'm not gonna lie to the American people. Nothing's gonna happen if we don't get 60 votes in the Senate. We're not even close to that on the Republican or the Democrat side. Why try and divide people further? Why not talk about the fact that we should be trying to save as many babies as possible and support as many mothers as possible? I think the media has tried to divide them by saying we have to decide certain weeks. In states, yes. At the federal level, it's not realistic. It's not being honest with the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, as a conservative woman, do you think it undermines your party if the Republican front-runner is someone who was just found liable, legally liable for sexually abusing a woman?

HALEY: I have always said that anyone that feels like they have been sexually assaulted in any way should come forward and have their voice heard. I also think anyone that's been accused should be able to defend themselves. I was not on the jury. I am not the judge. I think that both of them had their voices heard. There's been a verdict and there's been an appeal–


MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump was offered the–

HALEY: That's for Trump to defend and that's Trump to decide that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He- he gave a deposition, but he didn't go in to defend himself and it was a jury that came to this conclusion. Are you drawing into question the legal findings?

HALEY:  No, I said there's a verdict. And I think there's been an appeal. And I think it stands where it stands. And I think the American people need to make a decision based on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Nikki Haley, thank you for coming on today and making your case.

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