South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster continued to back President Donald Trump's immigration policy during a campaign stop Friday morning in Rock Hill.
McMaster left a meet-and-greet at Eggs Up Diner for a few minutes to take a phone call from the president.
He said the president called to talk about his upcoming trip to South Carolina. McMaster said Trump told him to “tell the people of South Carolina that I love them.”
This is the second time Trump has called the South Carolina governor at a campaign stop this week, McMaster said. He also called on Monday while the governor was in Charleston. Trump will be campaigning for McMaster in South Carolina next week.
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“He loves South Carolina,” McMaster said. “And of course, he knows in the Republican primary in 2016 that this was the big one, this was where he won. I was by his side all across the state, and some in North Carolina, the crowds were overflowing with enthusiasm and numbers everywhere.
“And this state, our people, have a special place in history with him,” McMaster said. “And he is deeply grateful and proud of the people in South Carolina.”
The Trump administration recently enacted a zero-tolerance policy on immigration that resulted in children being separated from their parents at the border. After public backlash, Trump signed an executive order halting his family separation policy.
McMaster denied the family separation policy was new, saying it "had been the law for years."
The executive order would instead detain children and families together, a policy that was blocked by courts after former President Barack Obama tried it. The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement holds that undocumented children cannot be held for more than 20 days.
Trump’s executive order will ask the courts to change that decision to allow immigrant children to be detained with their parents indefinitely, through their entire criminal proceedings.
McMaster said he has no information on if any detained children are being held in South Carolina.
“What happened is President Trump inherited a disaster created by President Obama,” McMaster said Friday. “…President (Trump) went back to the original law that required rules to be followed. And then when it developed that children were being taken from their families because of that, he corrected that just this week with an executive order that’s doing it in the right way by having the judge change the order that President Obama had violated.
“Now it sounds a little complicated, but what President Trump is doing is following the law and getting the right thing done one step at a time.”
McMaster said he hasn’t spoken to the president about how the government plans to reunite children and families who were separated before Trump’s executive order.
But he said he has sent S.C. Army National Guard troops to Texas and Arizona and is willing to send more at Trump’s request to secure the border. Several other state governors, including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, have recently said they won’t support Trump with state National Guard troops at the border.
“If the border were secure, we wouldn’t have illegals coming in either with or without children to begin with,” McMaster said. “We must have a secure border. But the president has responded in the proper way, the lawful way, and as a result, we are now on a course, as he said we would be, to having a secure border with proper measures being taken to accommodate certain situations.”
S.C. Rep. Tommy Pope stood with McMaster at the event after endorsing him earlier this week, along with former York County sheriff and S.C. Rep. Bruce Bryant, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett and York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson.
McMaster faces Greenville businessman John Warren in Tuesday's GOP nomination runoff race for governor.