Trump is going to Mexico then giving a speech on immigration.

Donald Trump is set to deliver a “big speech” on immigration in Phoenix, Arizona this evening. The questions on the minds of news observers mostly revolve around whether Trump will soften or strengthen his stance on illegal immigration. He famously launched his campaign 14 months ago by slowly descending down an escalator then suggesting that immigrants from Mexico are rapists, criminals, and drug dealers. Some, he assumes, are good people.

“Will it be an impenetrable transcontinental ocean to ocean Game of Thrones-esque ‘Make America Great’ physical wall… ?” or nah?

The anticipation of this speech is reaching a fever pitch.  The political theatre of this moment is heightened by Trump’s announcement that he will be meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (who is the least liked person in Mexico, second only to Donald Trump) only hours before his speech.

Many are speculating about what to expect from Mr. Trump after the visit and subsequent speech. The New York Times asks whether the day’s events are intended to signal a shift in policy, or merely for publicity. Trump’s rhetoric (if not his stance) on immigration has shifted. Even over the last few days. A story by NPR’s Diane Kurtzleben outlines the Trump campaigns internal messaging flip-flops on whether the candidate should soften or stand strong in his stance on immigration. Vox.com’s Dara Lind also reported about disagreement within the Trump campaign saying there are two camps:

“One side wants him to back off the more inhumane-sounding proposals (like rounding up immigrants via a “deportation force”) in order to appeal to suburban whites. The other side wants him to stand his ground and maintain his relationship with his loyal, highly motivated, and highly anti-immigration base.”

Some people expect Trump to lay out his immigration plan tonight, others expect more of the same (build the wall, Mexico will pay, criminals must go, grr, etc.). Maybe all we get is the softer tone and nothing else.

Trump has already said that there was room for softening his stance on immigration. In 2013 he was allegedly convinced by a pro-immigrant group that legalization was the right path. During his town hall style interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity Trump even polled the audience asking them to respond by applause on whether they were ‘okay’ with ‘working with’ undocumented immigrants who are upstanding members of American society or whether they should be throw out. The audience reacted positively to the idea of ‘working with’ upstanding undocumented families and it seemed that Trump himself was leaning in that direction.

A ‘softer’ view on immigration from Republican voters, even from Trump supporters, should not come as a surprise. Pew research has shown that Republican non-Trump supporters are twice as likely to say immigrants strengthen the country than burden the country. In “5 facts about Trump supporters’ views of immigration” Pew research shows that although immigration is a major issue among Trump supporters, even within their Trump supporter subset they have mixed views on immigrants and immigration. They all agree about the wall, but they disagree about whether immigrants are prone to criminality and are divided on mass deportation.

With that said, Trump and the Republican party isn’t known for ‘softening.’ The man has a virtuoso’s penchant for getting attention. He needs headlines to compete in this presidential race. Plus, Trump has a reputation for assertiveness not for compassion.

From a practical standpoint, sadly, it seems unlikely that both Donald Trump and President Peńa Nieto would squander an opportunity to appeal to their constituents by attacking each other. The Atlantic’s David Graham admits that the “political calculus is tough to figure out” but there is little doubt that both men are serving the optics of their political self-interest.

For what it’s worth Peńa Nieto’s wife Margarita Zavala tweeted:

@Mzavalagc: “Sr. @realDonaldTrump aunque lo hayan invitado, sepa que no es bienvenido. Los mexicanos tenemos dignidad y repudiamos su discurso de odio.”

@Mzavalagc: “Mr. @realDonaldTrump although you have been invited, know that you are not welcome. The Mexican people have dignity and repudiate your hate speech.”

Moreover, Trump is delivering his speech on immigration tonight in Phoenix, Arizona with ardent anti-immigrant advocates Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Governor Jan Brewer at his side. It seems strange that he would deliver speech with a shift or a softening of his stance immediately after meeting with the Mexican President and while having anti-immigrant Arizona politicians at his side. Not to mention that Trump is currently polling only two points ahead of Clinton in Arizona.

This election year is crazy, we may end up with no information at at the end of the day. Immigration is always a hot button issue. All anyone can do is parse out the tea leaves of the last two weeks and guess at what will happen. Will he say something about a guest worker program or a touchback system. Will Ann Coulter’s book about Trump and his immigration policy be completely irrelevant a week after it’s release?

The only tangible policy point we can expect to get clarity on is whether Donald Trump is still committed to building a wall. If so, will it be an impenetrable transcontinental ocean to ocean Game of Thrones-esque ‘Make America Great’ physical wall or a wall that is parts physical and parts ‘technological’ like some of his supporters have suggested? Maybe we won’t even learn more about that either. This is Donald Trump we’re talking about. The guy is all or nothing.

Ultimately one fact remains this, will all play out over the next few hours, but FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver is hoping for expecting the worst (NSFW).

Follow @Gozamos on twitter for more updates as this story unravels unfolds.

How to watch: Trump will deliver his speech at 9pm Eastern. You can stream it on C-SPAN. Cable networks are also expected to carry the speech.

  • Update 4:15pm: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump gave a joint press conference where Peña Nieto delivered a very diplomatic speech about the enduring partnership between Mexico and the United States. Donald Trump talked about the impact of drugs and migrant workers entering the United States, NAFTA, and ending illegal immigration (watch here).
  • Update 7:59pm: Mexican President Peña Nieto tweeted: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”

Luis Antonio Perez is an incoming graduate student at Northwestern University’s MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program. He is a former talk show host-producer for Chicago Public Media’s Vocalo Radio. You can follow him on twitter at @northsidelou.