‘That’s Sweet. They’re Illegal Aliens’: Heritage Foundation President Spars With MSNBC Hosts Over Illegal Immigration


Julianna Frieman Contributor
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Dr. Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, sparred with MSNBC hosts Saturday over issues related to a second Trump term and illegal migrants.

“The Weekend” co-host Symone Sanders-Townsend pressed Roberts over the Heritage Foundation’s perceived plan to start “institutionalizing Trumpism” as proposed in Project 2025, a series of conservative policy proposals for the administration of the federal government. Roberts denied the former Biden-Harris senior advisor’s claim that the plan was “cooked up specifically for the second coming of the Trump administration,” stating they “couldn’t do that” because the Heritage Foundation is “not partisan.” Roberts said he “would have been thrilled” if President Joe Biden “asked for a briefing.”

Roberts was then asked about “using the National Guard” to conduct deportations.

“First of all, we need to close the border,” before calling for “the biggest mass deportation system ever in the history of America because it is unjust and illegal and evil that more than 10 million illegal aliens have come to this country.” Roberts responded.

“It’s imperative that we send those people back. Invite them back to come through the legal system — we love immigrants at Heritage — but we also love the rule of law,” Roberts said. (RELATED: Family Of Mother Allegedly Murdered By Illegal Migrant ‘Deeply Touched’ By Trump’s Outreach)

“So, how do you plan to carry that out?” Sanders-Townsend asked. “Are you talking about going door-to-door ’cause that’s what — I mean, I can read from the plan — but I think— ”

“The first thing is that there’s going to be a lot of self-deportation. The interesting thing, as you no doubt know, is that simply talking about this and beginning to implement a plan — and President Trump deserves a lot of credit for talking about this — causes people to say, ‘I don’t want to run the risk of being arrested for doing something illegal.'”

Roberts added “there are great plans” using the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and that “even a majority of people on the political Left agree” with mass deportations because of the “damage” caused by the border crisis.

Sanders-Townsend then appeared to override co-host and former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele’s attempt to close out the segment, saying, “I think we want to take a couple more minutes,” despite being “called to wrap.”

“I’ll stay as long as you want,” Roberts remarked.

“So what do these people do? What are they doing now?” Steele asked Roberts.

“Which people?” Roberts asked.

“The folks, the 11 million, 20 million, whatever you wanna deport,” Steele clarified.

Roberts told Steele that “a lot of them are committing crimes” and referenced the alleged murder of Jocelyn Nungaray, 12, by two Venezuelan migrants in Houston. Nungaray’s body was found Monday.

“So that’s one. That’s one, out of 11 million,” Steele said. “What is, what is— ”

“We can take the remaining time of this segment and I can give you a lot of examples of this,” Roberts responded as Sanders-Townsend cut in with statistics.

Sanders-Townsend insisted she was “just giving the numbers,” prompting Roberts to challenge her to “tell that to the survivors of these people” whose family members were killed.

“What is the difference between an illegal immigrant who, unfortunately, engages in that activity?” Steele asked Roberts.

“And we don’t like that — I wanna be clear. We don’t use the term ‘illegal.’ Undocumented individuals,” Sanders-Townsend chimed in.

“That’s sweet. They’re illegal aliens,” Roberts said.

Roberts told Steele most illegal migrants “are not even making an attempt to be legal” when he asked for the number of illegal migrants committing crimes in the U.S. Sanders-Townsend quickly switched the topic to abortion after accusing Roberts of “weaponizing a horrific murder to smear 11 million people.”

The Heritage Foundation is a major American conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1973, Heritage rose to prominence during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, having helped shape his administration’s policies through recommendations and studies, including its “Mandate for Leadership.”

Speaking to The Daily Caller, Dr. Roberts expressed appreciation for the invitation to join the show, in spite of the contrast such a pairing would appear. Left-leaning media have frequently targeted the Heritage Foundation and Project 2025 as right-wing boogeymen. Roberts has been pitched to those networks over the past two years, but reportedly to little or no interest. Saturday’s appearance was reportedly Roberts’s first time on a major left-leaning outlet — the ratio of appearing on right-leaning media to that of the left was “probably 50:1” — and he has since been invited to come back in the future.

“They invited me to be on the show, which I was happy to do,” he said. “I will talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere about conservatism, about America, about Project 2025. But I was glad to be on and I will go back on again.”

“The interview started, I thought, politely. Both of the anchors or hosts who were on set in D.C., I thought, were polite … and then it took the turn that I think everyone knew that it would because of the disagreement. I thought the engagement with Mr. Steele was polite. I don’t mind a difference of opinion — he certainly doesn’t — but the engagement was fine and fair, and I thought his questions were fair.”

Roberts then reflected on his exchange with Symone Sanders-Townsend, which at times escalated as both sought to bolster their arguments with supporting evidence.

“With [Sanders-Townsend], of course, it really took a turn for the worse as it related to immigration and Project 2025, election integrity, abortion, and in that, as I told her off-camera when we were done, I expected us to spar. I thanked her for being there, but I think the problem for MSNBC is that the ‘evidence’ that they’re using to frame their questions is selective, it’s cherry-picked, it’s not conducive to an intellectually honest conversation, which is my motivation for going on any outlet anytime, anywhere to talk about whatever topic you want to talk to me about. Heritage and Project 2025 are open books 100 percent of the time and, I think, our willingness to talk about that openly is what’s driving the Left crazy.”

Editor’s note: This piece has been updated to include a response from Dr. Roberts.

The Daily Caller reached out to MSNBC for comment.