President Donald Trump travels to Arizona on Tuesday to visit the nation's southern border and to rally thousands of supporters for a two-day trip which critics fear could further inflame racial tensions with the state's large Hispanic population.
Democratic leaders and other Trump opponents plan protests and marches outside the rally to decry his immigration policies and his comments about Charlottesville.
But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters during Trump's flight that he would take no action Tuesday on Arpaio.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton last week implored Trump not to pardon controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio during his Arizona visit arguing that it would cause further division in a time of mourning after the violence at a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The visit comes at a politically turbulent time for the president during which he has trashed both of Arizona's Republican senators.
On Friday, he fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon, a highly divisive ultra-conservative accused of promoting anti-immigrant policies in the White House, and last week he touched off a firestorm by saying that "both sides" were to blame for violence in Charlottesville.
Trump is scheduled to tour a U.S. Border Patrol operations center along the U.S.-Mexico border, watch demonstrations of U.S. Customs drones, a boat and a truck, and meet with Marines.
Trump is expected to renew his vow to build a wall and highlight other tougher immigration policies, a favorite among his supporters.
Administration officials briefing reporters on the trip said the area had seen a 46 percent drop in apprehensions of people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. between Jan. 1 and July 31, compared with the same period in 2016.
In fact, the Associated Press pointed out immigrant traffic around Yuma has dramatically slowed over the past dozen years. Once a hotbed for illegal immigration, the Border Patrol sector covering Yuma now ranks among the lowest in the Southwest for apprehensions and drug seizures.
There were some 138,000 apprehensions in 2005. The number had dropped to 14,000 by last year.
Neither Sens Jeff Flake nor Sen. John McCain, who is undergoing cancer treatment, will join Trump at his events in the state. Flake has been on tour promoting a book that says the Republican Party's embrace of Trump has left conservatism withering.
Flake has been a frequent target of Trump's wrath. Last week, Trump tweeted that Flake is "toxic" and said it is "great to see" a candidate running against him in the GOP primary for the seat, which is up for re-election next year.
"Trump is throwing salt on the wounds he tore open, traveling to Arizona to promote his divisive agenda and potentially pardon one of our nation’s most notorious symbols of racism and bigotry: former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio," Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez wrote in an opinion column published Tuesday.
"Instead of catching criminals, Arpaio tore families apart and built what one of his own deputies called a “wall of distrust” between the police and the Latino community," he wrote.
In a statement last week Mayor Stanton said he was "disappointed" that the president had scheduled a campaign rally in his city "as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," and asked him to delay the event.
"If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation," he added.
Trump has hinted several times over the past few days that he is considering a pardon for Arpaio, 85, an anti-immigrant hawk who was convicted in late July of criminal contempt after he defied a judge's 2011 court order to refrain from racially profiling Latinos during patrols.
During the trial prosecutors argued that Arpaio intentionally violated the court order to stop his officers from detaining people simply on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally. As a result of the police tactics, some Latinos who were citizens or legal residents were wrongly detained.