Arizona Governor, Obama Face Off

Arizona governor, Obama face off
Scant progress on immigration

By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times, June 3, 2010

Inside the Oval Office on Thursday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer went head-to-head with President Obama as she demanded he take more steps to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, and they failed to make headway on the state's tough new immigration law.

Several hundred yards away, outside the White House gates, dozens of immigration rights protesters denounced Arizona's new immigration law and chanted, 'Jan Brewer, shame on you.'

In signing her state's law cracking down on illegal immigrants in April, Mrs. Brewer instantly brightened her political fortunes in Arizona, angered Hispanic voters nationwide and became the focal point for the resurgent bitter immigration debate.

'I feel very confident about what we have done in the past. It was the right thing to do,' Mrs. Brewer told reporters after her meeting at the White House. 'I believe that we are protecting the people of Arizona, and beyond that, I believe we're protecting the people of America.'

The Oval Office meeting gave Mrs. Brewer her biggest stage yet as she argues that the federal government has failed in its job of policing the borders.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Brewer agreed to try to deepen cooperation on the president's plan to deploy up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the border, but found little other common ground.

Mrs. Brewer said she requested construction on more fencing, and the White House said Mr. Obama asked her to try to persuade Republicans to support the president's push to pass a legalization bill for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Brewer were careful about discussing Arizona's crackdown that requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they encounter in the course of a stop or check who they suspect might be in the country illegally. Mr. Obama has ordered his administration to consider challenging the law as a violation of civil rights. Mrs. Brewer said the president told her he wouldn't get into the details of his objections but would let the Justice Department conduct the review and make the final decisions on legal action.

'She's got a point of view that you have to do border security first. The president has a view that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters when asked whether any progress had been made.

Outside the White House were about 80 protesters who chanted slogans against Mrs. Brewer and the Arizona law. Some of them had T-shirts that read: 'Do I look 'illegal'?'

Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a leading immigration advocacy group, said he doubted any progress would come from the Oval Office meeting.

'They're playing to different audiences. She's running for re-election, and he's trying to solve the immigration issue,' Mr. Sharry said.

He said Mrs. Brewer is following the path trod by California Gov. Pete Wilson in the 1990s. Mr. Wilson, a Republican, rode to re-election in 1994 after pushing Proposition 187, which also required police to check the immigration status of those they arrested and tried to restrict government services to citizens and legal immigrants.

Mr. Wilson won re-election, but Republicans have suffered among California's Hispanic voters ever since.

Mr. Sharry said Republicans should be wary this year, especially in Arizona, which has a large Hispanic population.

'She might win, but at what cost?' he said.

Mrs. Brewer instantly won praise from those who want the government to focus on immigration enforcement rather than on Mr. Obama's call to legalize the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

One man outside the White House wore a clown hat and big yellow boxer shorts outside his long pants and carried a sign proclaiming: 'Barack – Jan Brewer is a real man.'

(Corrected paragraph:) For Mrs. Brewer, the attention came at a fortuitous time. She was elected four years ago as Secretary of State and gained the governorship after Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, resigned to take the homeland security secretary's position for Mr. Obama.

But until the immigration issue, Mrs. Brewer was searching for ways to solidify her support before the November election. She faces several challengers in the Republican primary, and state Attorney General Terry Goddard is likely to be the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate.

Polls have been erratic, though Mrs. Brewer generally appears to be on an upward trajectory, and signing the state law has been part of her rise.

'Governor Brewer is clearly looking down the road and calculating how to best position herself for the upcoming primary and gubernatorial election,' said Fred Solop, chairman of the political science department at Northern Arizona University. 'Governor Brewer scores points with the primary voters when she takes a leadership role, makes a decision, and appears to be standing up to the federal government.'

He said that stand against the federal government goes over well with state voters. He said that's also true for immigration, gun rights and even daylight saving time, which Arizona doesn't observe.


Ariz. Gov. Brewer, Obama meet to discuss immigration enforcement
By Michael D. Shear
The Washington Post, June 4, 2010

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said Thursday that President Obama assured her that he would send White House staff members to her state to talk with officials about efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

The governor said her meeting with Obama in the Oval Office was cordial, despite their disagreement over the widely criticized state law she signed in April, which gave police greater powers to enforce federal immigration laws.

She said Obama declined to discuss whether the Justice Department plans to file a lawsuit to block the law before it takes effect next month.

The White House said in a statement that the meeting went well but that Obama reiterated his concerns about the law, including that a patchwork of state immigration regulations would complicate the federal government's role in setting and enforcing immigration policy. The White House said Obama would like Brewer to work with him to help pass comprehensive changes to the immigration system that would provide a path to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that, in particular, the president hoped Brewer would help persuade Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to support broad immigration legislation, as he did several times earlier this decade. 'I doubt we are going to get comprehensive immigration reform if we don't have John McCain doing what he did during those years,' Gibbs said.

But as she was leaving the White House, Brewer said that she thinks the border must 'be secured' first.


Brewer vs. Obama: Little Common Ground
By Darlene Superville and Suzanne Gamboa
The Arizona Daily Sun, June 4, 2010

WASHINGTON Facing off over illegal immigration, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer told President Barack Obama that Americans want our border secured and called Thursday for completion of a separating fence. Obama underscored his objections that the tough immigration law she signed is discriminatory.

Meeting in the Oval Office, Obama said Arizonas law and similar efforts by more than 20 states would interfere with the federal governments responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy.

Neither side appeared to give ground on the contentious issue although both talked about seeking a bipartisan solution.

Obama urged her to be his partner in working toward a comprehensive overhaul of the nations badly fractured immigration system. Brewer told The Associated Press afterward that she told Obama her state is not ready for the comprehensive solution he favors.

I said we need to have the fence completed, have more troops on the border and more resources for aerial surveillance, she said.

Thursdays unusual meeting between the president and the governor was a byproduct of Brewers decision to sign a first-in-the-nation law requiring police enforcing other laws to check immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. The law also makes being in the U.S. illegally a state crime. Brewer sought the meeting and the White House accepted.

Emerging from the half-hour session, Brewer said Obama had assured her that the majority of the 1,200 National Guard troops he is sending to the U.S.-Mexico border would be going to her state.

Brewer said she and Obama, at odds over how to control illegal immigration, also agreed to try to work together on solutions. She said White House staff would visit Arizona in a couple of weeks to continue the very cordial discussion she had with the president.

I believe the people of Arizona, the people of America, want our border secured, Brewer said.

Outside the White House, hundreds of protesters, as unhappy with the law as they are with Obamas inability to overhaul a system he and others say is broken, noisily greeted the Republican governor as she arrived for the meeting.

Nearly 200 people walked in a circle on the pedestrian-only portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House holding signs, chanting Jan Brewer, shame on you! beating drums and, in the case of one man, strumming a guitar.

The Arizona law is scheduled to take effect July 29, unless it is blocked by a court under pending legal challenges. Obamas Justice Department also is reviewing the law for possible civil rights violations, with an eye toward a possible court challenge. Obama would not discuss any possible Justice Department action in the meeting, Brewer said.

Brewer has said she signed the law because she believes Washington had failed to do its part to protect the U.S.-Mexico border.

Obama said Thursday in an interview that he understands the frustration in Arizona over the influx of illegal immigrants from Mexico but that Arizonas law is the wrong way to go about solving the problem.

I think this puts American citizens, who … are Hispanic, potentially in an unfair situation, he told CNNs Larry King.

Obama has been more outspoken on the issue recently. He has restated his desire to fix the system in a way that would tighten access to the border, help millions of illegal immigrants become U.S. citizens and crack down on employers who knowingly hire them. But he also has reminded advocates that Democrats only have 59 votes in the Senate one short of the number needed to overcome GOP stalling tactics.

Some Republicans, including Brewer and Arizona Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, want tighter border controls first.

Obama has met with Republican senators and telephoned some privately, but Democrats have been unable to get any Republicans to help write an immigration reform bill. Some Democrats also oppose taking up immigration reform this election year, and the legislative calendar is closing.

While lawmakers and border-state governors say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence in their states, government data obtained by The Associated Press show it actually isnt so dangerous down there after all.

The top four big U.S. cities with the lowest violent crime rates San Diego, Phoenix, El Paso and Austin are in border states, according to a new FBI report. And an internal Customs and Border Protection report shows its agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.

Brewer said in a televised interview last weekend: We are out here on the battlefield getting the impact of all this illegal immigration, and all the crime that comes with it. But FBI crime reports for 2009 says violent crime in Arizona declined. And violent crimes in Southwest border counties are among the lowest in the nation per capita theyve dropped by more than 30 percent in the last two decades.

Brewer said after Thursdays meeting that she believes people across the country want our border secured and that she would like to see construction begin soon to complete a fence along the border.

The Obama-Brewer meeting was closed to the media, so reporters did not see them together. The White House later released an official photograph from the meeting.