Arizona's Brewer misses second straight US-Mexico Border Governors Conference

Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona will miss a chance to soothe tensions over last year's conference, which her Mexican counterparts boycotted in protest of her signing a tough immigration law.

ZUMA Press/Newscom
Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona during a press conference at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix on May 9. Brewer will miss the second US-Mexico Border Governors Conference.

Would the presence of Gov. Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona at this year’s meeting of US and Mexican border governors have served to heal or reopen political wounds? Now we will never know, as the governor has canceled her trip.

Governor Brewer was scheduled to leave today for the Border Governors Conference in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, but she told The Arizona Republic she is skipping the annual meeting to deal with pressing issues at home. Specifically, the governor mentioned the scheduled release of a report and a meeting involving state Child Protective Services. The agency has come under fire recently for a string of child deaths and injuries that happened under its watch.

It will be the second time in as many years that Brewer is absent from the gathering that brings together six governors from Mexico and four from the US. Last year’s session was scheduled for Arizona but Brewer canceled it after the Mexican governors boycotted the event in response to Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the tough immigration law she signed into law April 2010. The governors instead attended a hastily organized session in New Mexico and Brewer stayed put in Arizona.

The Republican governor was to partake in discussions over two days that center on economic development, border security, and international ports of entry.

Although SB 1070 was not on the conference agenda, the participating governors from Mexico still “personally reject it,” as do many Mexican citizens, says Martin Cota, a spokesman for Baja California Governor José Guadalupe Osuna Millán.

A federal judge blocked key portions of the immigration law – which makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally – just before it was scheduled to take effect in July 2010. A court of appeals upheld the ruling and Brewer is appealing that decision to the nation’s highest court. The US Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to hear oral arguments.

Brewer’s absence means New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, also a Republican, will be the only US governor at the conference. Like Brewer, Gov. Martinez has adopted a tough stance on illegal immigration since she took office in January and is making good on a campaign promise to push for the repeal of a state law that grants driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The other two US border governors, Rick Perry (R) of Texas and Jerry Brown (D) of California, won’t be in Mexico but are sending representatives.

The governors also will tackle the trafficking of arms, according to a statement from Gov. Osuna Millán’s office. The topic is another point of contention between US and Mexican officials that has brought notoriety to Arizona over a botched federal investigation involving hundreds of guns that ended up in the hands of drug traffickers south of the border. Arizona’s top federal prosecutor resigned in the recent fallout.

Despite the sometimes frayed relations between the two countries, governors on both sides of the border say the conference is an opportunity to hash out matters that transcend the 2,000-mile international boundary and seek to improve life in the region. What impact the lack of direct involvement on the part of most US governors remains to be seen.

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