Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio claimed on MSNBC during a discussion of food policy Wednesday that "there's no legal way for immigrants to actually enter this country."
MSNBC host Ali Velshi brought up the topic of immigrants who are seeking a better life through work in the food industry. According to the Pew Research Center, illegal immigrants make up between 16 and 19 percent of bakers, cooks, dishwashers, and dining room or cafeteria attendants. Velshi asked Colicchio about the relevance of immigration to the restaurant business.
Colicchio pointed out that his fellow panelist, chef José Andrés, was an immigrant who "came to this country and just worked night and day, became a business owner and employs people now."
"So, we need to welcome immigrants to our country. And that's the problem right now, is we can look at a broken immigration system, and you can look at illegal immigration. Well, there's no legal way for immigrants to actually enter this country," Colicchio said.
"These are people that want to work," Colicchio insisted. "They want to feed their families. They're fleeing really bad situations, and once they get here, they just contribute. My family came here in 1903 from Italy, when immigration was a lot easier. It was a country that welcomed immigration."
Colicchio has spoken out on the issue of immigration before, attacking President Donald Trump's support for increased immigration restrictions. He has also suggested that the GOP is beholden to big business over farmers.
Colicchio is not an apolitical chef. He is a member of the board of Food Policy Action, which lobbies legislators on food issues. He is also a supporter of liberal star Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.). Colicchio gave Booker's campaign $7,700 in individual and joint fundraising contributions in 2013 and 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.