Top White House officials were delighted last weekend when a Washington Post story, a reported piece from the paper's immigration and national security reporter, said there is "a bona fide emergency on the [U.S.-Mexico] border" and that "record numbers of migrant families are streaming into the United States, overwhelming border agents and leaving holding cells dangerously overcrowded with children."
That is precisely the point the administration has been trying to make lately. Could anyone in the White House have said it better?
The problem is, as much as officials from President Trump on down proclaim a "crisis" on the border, the Democrats who control the House don't believe it. Nor do the Democrats who control enough of the Senate to block the president's border barrier proposal and other initiatives.
Now, with his address to the nation and efforts in the next few days, Trump must convince Americans that the crisis exists. The president will argue that there is a two-part crisis at the border, a humanitarian crisis and a national security crisis. If Trump can make the case, he will have a chance of winning the shutdown standoff with congressional Democrats. If he can't, he'll lose.
To win, the administration must convince Americans that the situation at the border has changed dramatically and that the Democrats' solutions, rooted in an out-of-date understanding of the problem, will not work.
To do that, officials will have to begin by explaining that the most frequently cited statistics about illegal border crossings simply do not tell the story of what is happening today. At a White House meeting Monday, Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tried to do just that.
Nielsen handed out a chart from the Border Patrol on border apprehensions each fiscal year since 2006. In the first year, agents caught 1,071,972 people trying to cross into the United States illegally. The next year, the number went down to 858,638. Then 705,005. After that, the numbers bounced around. There were 327,577 apprehensions in 2011, and then 479,371 in 2014. The number fell to a low of 303,916 in 2017, Trump's first year in office. It rose to 396,579 in 2018. Nielsen's chart included a dotted line which projected the number to rise dramatically to 600,000 in 201