The president giving his speech tonight (CNN)

Funny, but I was more negative on the wall speech before I heard Pelosi and Schumer than after I heard them. Nancy Pelosi could try to talk me into eating chocolate pudding with whipped cream, and I would rethink the cauliflower puree.

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They were pretty terrible, those two.

Trump is obnoxious about the wall, and always has been. I think he should not have shut down the government over it. But here’s the thing: none of these people, Republicans or Democrats, have ever been truly serious about border security. The fact that a jerk like Trump points this out doesn’t make it any less true.

Pelosi said:

The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump’s own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened. And the fact is: President Trump must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis, and must re-open the government.

But Trump said in his speech:

This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.

Last month, 20,000 migrant children were illegally brought into the united States, a dramatic increase. These children are used as human pawns by vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs. One in three women are sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico. Women and children are the biggest victims by far of our broken system. This is the tragic reality of illegal immigration on our southern border. This is the cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end.

Here’s a fact:

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You don’t have to support exactly how the Trump administration is handling family separation to acknowledge that he’s right about the humanitarian disaster at the border — a disaster that is caused by these families trying to cross illegally into this country, not by us trying to stop them from breaking the law.

National Review says that Trump is misleading to focus on the supposed terrorists coming in across the border (and, I would say, on the criminals), but there really is a serious crisis:

Twenty years ago, single men accounted for the vast majority of illegal immigrants; now families or minors are almost 60 percent of apprehensions. Because of court-dictated rules limiting how long we can hold children, an anti-trafficking law that makes it impossible to easily send Central American minors home, and a broken asylum process — on top of strained resources across the board — we are routinely releasing migrants into the country, even though this is a policy that the Trump administration (rightly) opposes and desperately wants to reverse. Our inability to control the flow encourages more migrants to come.

As Dara Lind of Vox correctly observed the other day: “Over the summer and fall of 2018, it’s become clear that there really is a crisis at the border—because more families are coming, to more places, than U.S. officials have ever been capable of dealing with.” She noted how more families and minors crossed the border illegally last November than any month since DHS started breaking out this category in its numbers in 2011, and more than during the influx in 2014, which was widely referred to as a “border crisis.”

Again, this is not a “manufactured crisis,” as Pelosi said. Politico’s polling says that most Americans think it’s a serious problem, but not a crisis. They’re wrong. Here are more data on that crisis.Yale scholars estimate that there are twice as many illegal immigrants — 22 million — in the US than previously thought:

The fact is, the United States does not have control of its southern border. I don’t think a wall would solve it on its own. We need to change the asylum laws, for one thing. And yeah, Trump demagogues the hell out of this issue; the one good lick Pelosi and Schumer got in on him tonight was pointing out how he’s asking for $5 billion for the wall that he promised he’d make Mexico pay for. Trump ought not to have shut down the government over this issue, and is going to capitulate ultimately. Neither presentation tonight moved anybody (though the dishonesty of Schumer and Pelosi made me weirdly more sympathetic to Trump than I expected to be).

In the end, those who oppose the wall — 59 percent of the American people — need to say how we should protect the border instead, or need to own up to the fact that they really don’t care about open borders. In which case we aren’t really a nation anymore. The wall really is an aesthetically and diplomatically ugly idea. But what is the alternative? I’m serious: how are we going to regain control of our border?

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