Trump to review border protections in Yuma ahead of Phoenix rally

By Andrew V. Pestano and Danielle Haynes  |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 10:39 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday will tour border control equipment in Yuma, Ariz., before heading to his campaign-style rally in Phoenix where he's expected to push the construction of a border wall and a crackdown on illegal immigration.

He is expected to review U.S. Customs and Border Protection equipment -- including a Predator drone -- at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters before the trip.

Homeland Security said illegal border crossings in the Yuma sector are down 80 percent since 2006. In the time, the border wall there increased from 5.2 miles to 63 miles.

"So investments in the wall, as well as other border infrastructure, law enforcement personnel and technology, as well as increased prosecutions all resulted in a steep drop in illegal border crossings," an unnamed department official said. "What was once one of the least secure border areas in America is now one of the most secure areas because of those investments in border security."

Trump is expected to highlight investments in border security during his 7 p.m. rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, where he will be joined by thousands of supporters and where protesters are expected to take to the streets.

Trump's rally comes a day after he delivered a prime-time address on his administration's war strategy in Afghanistan and after a tumultuous week following his response to violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., attended by neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan.

In anticipation of Trump's appearance, which tens of thousands of supporters and protesters could attend, city officials and law enforcement agencies have pushed to shut down some roads and to close many businesses, offices, schools and state courts early.

There are several issues Trump could discuss in his rally. Trump is considering a pardon for former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose tough stance on illegal immigration while sheriff made him famous and popular among Republicans. Arpaio was convicted in July on federal criminal contempt charges for his treatment of immigrants.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has urged Trump to delay the rally, saying the country is too divided following the Charlottesville rally earlier this month. As demonstrators dispersed in Charlottesville, police said, rally attendee James A. Fields, Jr., drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.

Many public officials and business leaders throughout the country criticized Trump's response to the incident.

Stanton said Trump's rally will do more harm than good.

"I believe the true intention is really inflame people's passion to further divide the country and that's why I said the president should delay this trip to Phoenix," Stanton said. "That would just, you know, put gasoline on that potential flame, that would be a really bad thing -- not just for Phoenix for the entire United States of America."

At the scheduled rally, Trump could also endorse Kelli Ward, a challenger of incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake, who has criticized Trump, for the 2018 Arizona Republican primary.

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