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Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, walks outside for a television interview during a campaign event Jan. 9, 2024, at Mickey's Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa. (AP) Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, walks outside for a television interview during a campaign event Jan. 9, 2024, at Mickey's Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa. (AP)

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, walks outside for a television interview during a campaign event Jan. 9, 2024, at Mickey's Irish Pub in Waukee, Iowa. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone January 10, 2024
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 10, 2024

Birther claims are back, and still wrong. Nikki Haley is eligible to be president.

If Your Time is short

  • The U.S. Constitution requires that a president be a natural-born citizen. It also says a person born in the U.S. is a citizen.

  • Nikki Haley, a Republican candidate for president, meets eligibility requirements, experts said, because she was born in South Carolina.

  • The citizenship status of Haley’s parents, who became citizens after her birth, don’t affect Haley’s eligibility for the job, experts said.

Baseless social media posts, including from former President Donald Trump, have claimed that Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley is ineligible for the office she seeks.

"Nikki Haley’s parents were not U.S. citizens at the time of her birth in 1972," read the caption of a Jan. 5 Facebook post. "Citizenship by birthplace ‘does not’ satisfy the ‘natural-born’ requirement as stated in the US Constitution."

The post shared a link to an article in the Gateway Pundit, a conservative website, which examined a recent analysis by Paul Ingrassia, a law clerk and Trump supporter, published Jan. 1 on the conservative website American Greatness.

In his article, Ingrassia argued that because Haley’s parents weren’t yet American citizens when she was born in South Carolina, she is ineligible to be president. He said there’s a distinction between a "natural-born citizen" and "birthright citizenship."

Natural-born citizens, Ingrassia said, must be born to U.S. citizen parents. Therefore, although Haley may have birthright citizenship because she was born on American soil, that doesn’t meet the Constitution’s Article 2 standard to run for president or vice president.

The claim has been circulating on social media in recent days, and Trump on Truth Social shared the Gateway Pundit article on Jan. 8.

But these social media posts are wrong. Haley was born in South Carolina and meets the U.S. Constitution’s requirements to run for president.

"It is absolutely clear that if Haley is a citizen by birth, she is eligible," Kermit Roosevelt, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, said. "And it is absolutely clear that she is a citizen by birth. So there’s no substance to this."

Trump and others have made similar false "birther" claims about the eligibility of other presidential and vice presidential candidates, including the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.

Where was Haley born?

Haley’s campaign website says she was born in 1972 in Bamberg, South Carolina.

The State, a Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper, in 2015 wrote: "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." 

The Haley campaign confirmed that the information in The State article was correct.

What the Constitution, and legal experts, say

Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution requires the president to be a natural-born citizen, 35 years old and a U.S. resident for at least 14 years. It does not define "natural-born citizen," nor does it say anything about the citizenship status of the president’s parents.

The 14th Amendment states that all people "born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Michael Morley, a Florida State University law professor who teaches constitutional law, said the natural-born citizenship requirement to be president is not dependent on the status of Haley’s parents. It applies only to Haley.

Because she was born in South Carolina, he said, "Pursuant to the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause, she was therefore a citizen from birth — a ‘natural born citizen’ — and is accordingly eligible to serve as president."

William & Mary Law School professor Rebecca Green pointed to the Constitution’s Article 2, which states, "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States."

Green said: "Anyone born in the United States satisfies that criteria."

Sarah Duggin, a law professor at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Green.

Being born in South Carolina "would make her a natural born US citizen by birth, regardless of whether her parents were US citizens at the time of her birth."

Besides the Constitution, a 1952 statute (8 U.S. Code § 1401 - Nationals and citizens of United States at birth) states that people born in the United States are "nationals and citizens."

In 1898, the U.S. Supreme Court said in a 6-2 decision that Wong Kim Ark, who was born in San Francisco to Chinese citizens, was a U.S. citizen under the 14th Amendment.

Our ruling

Social media claims amplified by Trump and others claimed that Haley is ineligible for the job because her parents were not U.S. citizens when she was born in South Carolina.

But that claim misinterprets the U.S. Constitution, legal experts say. The 14th Amendment states that any person born in the U.S. is a citizen. The Constitution’s Article 2 states that the president must be a natural-born citizen, And experts say anyone born in the U.S. meets that requirement.

The claim that Haley is ineligible to be president is Pants on Fire!

RELATED: How to watch Republican candidates Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley’s CNN debate in Iowa

RELATED: All of our fact-checks about elections

Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 5, 2024 (archived)

Constitution Annotated, 14th Amendment, Sec. 1, accessed Jan. 10, 2024

Constitution Annotated, ArtII.S1.C5.1 Qualifications for the Presidency, accessed Jan. 10, 2024

Donald Trump, Truth Social post, Jan. 8, 2024

Gateway Pundit, Analysis: Legal Scholar Asserts U.S. Constitution Disqualifies Nikki Haley from Presidential or Vice-Presidential Candidacy, Jan. 2, 2024

American Greatness, The Constitution Absolutely Prohibits Nikki Haley From Being President Or Vice President, Jan. 1, 2024

Email interview, Olivia Perez-Cubas, Nikki Haley campaign spokesperson, Jan. 10, 2024

Email interview, Michael Morley, Florida State University law professor, Jan. 10, 2024

Email interview, Rebecca Green, William & Mary law professor, Jan. 10, 2024

Email interview, Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania law professor, Jan. 10, 2024

Email interview, Sarah Duggin, law professor at the Catholic University of America, Jan. 10, 2024

Nikki Haley campaign website, About Nikki, accessed Jan. 10, 2024

The State, The Buzz: Gov. Haley balances 2016 immigration tightrope, Sept. 26, 2015

Justia, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), accessed Jan. 10, 2024

Cornell Law School, 8 U.S. Code § 1401 - Nationals and citizens of United States at birth, accessed Jan. 10, 2024

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Birther claims are back, and still wrong. Nikki Haley is eligible to be president.

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