Obama, Arizona Gov. Brewer face off over illegal immigration

At a White House meeting Thursday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer plans to urge Obama to boost the federal role in attacking illegal immigration. The president has already made clear his objection to her state's tough new law to root out illegal immigrants.

By , Staff writer

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    In this April 23, 2010 photo, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signs SB 1070 during a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Gov. Brewer is meeting with President Obama Thursday to discuss illegal immigration policy.
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The heated national debate over immigration reaches the Oval Office Thursday, as President Obama sits down with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

Governor Brewer, who in April signed a tough new law that allows Arizona law enforcement personnel to check the immigration status of people reasonably suspected to be in the country illegally, found out Wednesday that she would be seeing the president. The governor is in town for a meeting of the Council of Governors, a 10-person panel Mr. Obama appointed her to in January that advises the president on homeland security.

Brewer says she looks forward to seeing the president face-to-face and making her case for beefed-up federal involvement in Arizona’s difficult border situation, where kidnapping, drug trafficking, and continuing illegal immigration have heightened a sense of crisis in the state.

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IN PICTURES: The US-Mexico border

“I think it's important to not only the state of Arizona but to all of America that we are able to tell him exactly what is taking place down there in Arizona and that we need to have our borders secured,” Brewer told Fox News Wednesday night. “And we need to have the federal government do their job.”

Brewer indicated that she would bring several aides with her to the meeting, including outside legal counsel – not the attorney general of Arizona, who does not support the law. Critics, including Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder, have said that Arizona's law – which goes into effect July 29 – will lead to racial profiling and could in fact lead to an increase in crime as people fear cooperating with police lest they face problems over their immigration status.

Brewer expressed chagrin that Attorney General Holder has not reached out to her since she signed the law in late April. She also seemed unperturbed at the prospect of legal challenges, either from the American Civil Liberties Union or the Obama administration. The Justice Department is considering a lawsuit, but has yet to announce action.

“We are prepared to defend [the law] all the way to the Supreme Court,” Brewer said.

The Arizona governor described what she called an intolerable situation in her state. “We're tired of this illegal trespassing into the state of Arizona and moving through the rest of the United States,” she said, adding that the costs associated with illegal immigration are unaffordable.

“You know, when you think about it, incarceration, when you think of education, when you think of health, you know, it's awful,” she said. “The kidnap capital of the world is Phoenix because of the drop-houses, the drug cartels. ... We can't tolerate it.”

Obama has indicated that he will send 1,200 National Guard troops to the region, but Brewer says she has not received details from the White House as to where they will be deployed. Obama has also asked Congress for an additional $500-plus million for border security.

In a small way, Obama has no one to blame but himself for this flareup over immigration, one of the toughest public policy issues of our time. When he took office and nominated then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) to the post of Homeland Security secretary, that put then-Arizona Secretary of State Brewer in line to become the next governor. Ms. Napolitano had vetoed similar anti-illegal immigration legislation repeatedly as governor, and it came as no surprise that the legislature would tee up the same sort of bill for the new conservative Republican governor, who would be more inclined to sign it than was her predecessor.

In her Fox interview, Brewer said she’s had only one conversation with Napolitano since taking office – and that was more than a year ago.

“She called us and indicated a little bit about what her intentions were as far as homeland security,” Brewer said.

Brewer's understanding is that Napolitano will not be at Thursday’s meeting, which begins at 1:30 p.m.

IN PICTURES: The US-Mexico border

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