Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will tour the border near Yuma ahead of Guard deployment

Rafael Carranza, The Republic | azcentral.com Published 12:43 p.m. MT April 17, 2018 | Updated 12:54 p.m. MT April 17, 2018

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey will tour the U.S.-Mexico border near Yuma on Wednesday as the National Guard continues finalizing plans to deploy troops to the area.

Nielsen and Ducey will take "an operation tour of the border wall system," according to a Department of Homeland Security news release. That likely means they will visit not only current physical barriers in the Yuma area, but also take a look at the technology and additional infrastructure in place.

Nielsen and Ducey will then speak with the media at the San Luis commercial port of entry, located in the border city of San Luis, just south of Yuma.

Nielsen's visit comes at a time when the Arizona National Guard continues developing plans to deploy some 338 service members to various points along Arizona's borderlands as part of Operation Guardian Support.

To date, there is no set timeline or details of locations where the Guard will be sent, according to a Guard spokesperson.

On Friday, Ducey welcomed the arrival of the first wave of about 60 troops to the Nogales area, saying they were needed to help border agents deal with a rise in the number of apprehensions, although he was unable to say how that spike was playing out in Arizona.

Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that Border Patrol apprehensions along the entire Southwest border increased 203 percent year to year from March 2017 to last month. However, apprehensions reached a historic low last year, following President Donald Trump's inauguration. The statistics this year are more or less at the level that they were before Trump took office, which are still at their lowest point in decades.

Still, Nielsen said the year-to-year rise in apprehensions, a reliable measure of migration patterns, constitutes a "crisis," and called for the deployment of the National Guard to assist border agents.

"The threat is real," Nielsen said nearly two weeks ago when she announced the deployment of the National Guard. "Despite a number of steps that this administration has taken Ö we continue to see unacceptable levels of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity, transnational criminal organizations, and illegal immigration flow across our border."

(graph may be viewed at source)

Nielsen was scheduled to tour the border in New Mexico last week, and to address a meeting of Southwest border county sheriffs. But she ended up canceling at the last minute. This will be her first visit to the Arizona border as secretary.

DHS officials have previously said that the Yuma area is proof that border barriers work, as they made their case to get congressional funding for additional construction of new barriers.

In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act which funded the construction of bollard-style fencing in large sections of the Yuma border area. National Guard troops deployed under President George W. Bush helped build most of those barriers.

Since their completion, the number of apprehensions decreased by about 92 percent, according to CBP officials. However, in the past few months, the number of migrant apprehensions along the Yuma area have continued to climb to their highest levels in a decade.