WASHINGTON — The White House and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) both reacted positively to her half-hour meeting with President Obama on Thursday, which focused on illegal immigration.
The White House, in a written statement, called it a “good meeting.” Governor Brewer called it “very, very cordial,” and said, “I am encouraged that there’s going to be much better dialogue between the federal government and the state of Arizona.”
The president-governor summit was the culmination of weeks of negative rhetoric coming from both sides, following Brewer’s decision in April to sign tough legislation aimed at curtailing illegal immigration. Under the law, police must check the residency status of someone who is being investigated for another possible legal infraction and who also raises “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country illegally.
The Obama administration has criticized the law, arguing it could result in racial profiling and spur the passage of laws in other states that result in an unworkable national patchwork of immigration policy. Brewer and her supporters have complained that administration officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, haven’t read the law and are playing politics with the increasingly powerful Hispanic vote.
But the tone improved after the Oval Office meeting. The two executives discussed President Obama’s previously announced plan to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the US-Mexican border and to request an additional $500 million from Congress for border security.
Before the meeting, Brewer had expressed dismay over a lack of clarity from Washington as to how these resources would be distributed. After the meeting, she said the numbers still weren’t fixed, but that Obama “felt the majority of all the resources would probably be coming to Arizona.”
She also said that in the next two weeks, Obama administration staff would come to Arizona to brief state officials on the National Guard deployment and funding.
In their meeting, the White House said, “the president acknowledged the understandable frustration that all Americans share about the broken immigration system, and the president and governor agreed that the lack of action to fix the broken system at the federal level is unacceptable.”
However, the two did not agree on how to proceed federally. Appearing before reporters after the meeting, Brewer was asked if she made a commitment to get Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform. Her reply: “No.”
“Comprehensive immigration reform” stands for a multi-pronged approach: securing the border; devising a better system for employer verification of a worker’s legal status; and establishing a pathway to legalization for immigrants currently afoul of the law.
Most Republicans support a “secure the border first strategy” and are not willing to entertain legalization or, as many call it, “amnesty.”
President George W. Bush supported comprehensive reform, but was not able to get enough Republicans in Congress to go along, and his plan died. During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised early action on comprehensive reform, but it has yet to move to the top of his agenda.
Still up in the air is whether the Justice Department will sue Arizona over the new law, which goes into effect on July 29.