MSNBC’s Velshi and Witt Spread Misinformation About Illegal immigration Under Trump

On Sunday, MSNBC hosts Ali Velshi and Alex Witt both did their part to spread misinformation to their viewers about illegal immigration and border security, with Velshi wrongly claiming that it is not illegal for asylum seekers to cross the border illegally, and Witt letting her guest understate the amount of new border wall built by the Donald Trump administration.

On the Velshi show at 8:44 a.m. Eastern, plugging a segment about the Trump administration withholding access to mental health counselors for illegal immigrant families who were separated at the border, host Velshi displayed a photograph of a child standing near her mother and crying even though it has been long since proven that the child in question was not actually separated from her mother.

After a commercial break, the MSNBC host brought aboard NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff and briefly showed the image a second time. A bit later, Velshi repeated debunked claims that it is somehow legal for asylum seekers to force their way across the border without permission, claiming:

To the extent that you made, there are people who believe the actions of these people are illegal — if you cross the border and you ask for asylum, there’s nothing illegal about that. That’s actually protected by international convention. If your asylum claim is not deemed to be valid — which, by the way, the overwhelming majority of asylum claims are not deemed to be valid — then people are given a deportation order, at which point their presence in America becomes illegal.

Without noting that many migrants from Central America have been offered the chance to remain in Mexico rather than try to enter the U.S., Velshi admitted the dangers of illegal border crossings as he finished setting up his question:

To the extent that you made, there are people who believe the actions of these people are illegal — if you cross the border and you ask for asylum, there’s nothing illegal about that. That’s actually protected by international convention. If your asylum claim is not deemed to be valid — which, by the way, the overwhelming majority of asylum claims are not deemed to be valid — then people are given a deportation order, at which point their presence in America becomes illegal.

Velshi surprisingly admitted that most asylum seekers are rejected, but did not acknowledge how difficult it is to deport illegals after they have been allowed into the country to allegedly pursue asylum claims — which many never do.

For his part, Soboroff not only did not correct Velshi’s claim that it is not illegal to illegally cross the border, but he also misleadingly recalled that there have been some cases of legal asylum seekers being separated from their children — which, although not typical, also happened under the Barack Obama administration — as he began his response:

SOBOROFF: And whether or not it is illegal, Ali — I mean, I think that’s a really great point, even if it is illegal — let’s just put that aside — are you going to support or not support the government of the United States of America torturing human beings, whether or not they crossed illegally between ports of entry or at a legal port of entry? And I think it’s important to point out that many people who were separated by the Trump administration crossed legally, so that’s why, you know, with the incoming administration, there are so many issues that they have to reckon with.

Velshi went on to vaguely admit that he also had problems with the way the Obama administration handled illegal border crossers, and promised to press the Joe Biden administration to be better: “So the pressure on them to get that right now is greater and the pressure on us to hold them to account for finally handling immigration to this country and refugees properly has got to be priority number one. I know you’re going to make it priority number one, and we’ll make sure that you get lots of space on TV to do it.”

A few hours later, afternoon host Alex Witt notably allowed her guest, former HHS Secretary Julian Castro, to claim that most of Trump’s new border wall does not count as actually being new wall even though MSNBC has previously admitted that Trump has had substantial success in erecting a more effective barrier.

The misleading episode of Velshi was sponsored in part by Chevrolet. Their contact information is linked.

Below is a transcript of he relevant portion of the Sunday, November 22, Velshi show on MSNBC:

8:44 a.m. Eastern

ALI VELSHI (before commercial break): Well, as if being ripped away from your family wasn’t torture enough, we now know that the Trump administration denied mental health services to the migrant families that it separated at the border. Think about that for a minute — you separate people from their families, you put them in cages, and then you don’t provide them with the support they need.

(…)

8:52 a.m.

ALI VELSHI: To the extent that you made, there are people who believe the actions of these people are illegal — if you cross the border and you ask for asylum, there’s nothing illegal about that. That’s actually protected by international convention. If your asylum claim is not deemed to be valid — which, by the way, the overwhelming majority of asylum claims are not deemed to be valid — then people are given a deportation order, at which point their presence in America becomes illegal. But the concept that we demonize people walking across a desert at great peril to themselves — often resulting in death before they get to America because they’d like to try and make $100 a day, as opposed to $10 a day they made where they came from and do this — and you said it before and I said it here, the cruelty does seem to be the point.

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And whether or not it is illegal, Ali — I mean, I think that’s a really great point, even if it is illegal — let’s just put that aside — are you going to support or not support the government of the United States of America torturing human beings, whether or not they crossed illegally between ports of entry or at a legal port of entry? And I think it’s important to point out that many people who were separated by the Trump administration crossed legally, so that’s why, you know, with the incoming administration, there are so many issues that they have to reckon with. 

You mentioned some of them in the introduction — you know, the cases of COVID inside these detention centers in Texas — that echoes what we’ve seen in California, in Georgia, in Arizona, in Louisiana. What are they going to do about the parents and children who are still separated from one another. So what are they going to do about the 28 kids today inside ICE family detention centers who have deportation orders. You have Senator Booker amongst other Senators calling for the halting of those deportations. You know, the incoming administration is going to have a lot on their plate, and, so far, you know, granted we’re in the middle of a transition, and the President is not supporting it, there are a lot more questions than answers about how they’re going to deal with some of this stuff.

VELSHI: Yeah, and while a lot of reporters think the next few years might be different than the last few, for you they won’t be because no administration in recent history has actually gotten this right on the southern border. The Democrats were no angels about this, either. They certainly didn’t hold a candle to the cruelty of the Trump administration, but they didn’t get this right the last time around under Barack Obama and Joe Biden. So the pressure on them to get that right now is greater and the pressure on us to hold them to account for finally handling immigration to this country and refugees properly has got to be priority number one. I know you’re going to make it priority number one, and we’ll make sure that you get lots of space on TV to do it.

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