President Barack Obama’s meeting Thursday with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) may have opened up communication lines, but it appears to have done little to achieve common ground on overhauling immigration laws.
Following their White House meeting, Brewer told reporters that the two had “a very cordial discussion” about border matters but that they agreed to disagree about how to stem illegal immigration. The governor prefers making border security the top priority, while Obama wants a comprehensive plan.
“We know that we’re not going to agree on certain issues until other issues are worked out,” she said. For now, she added, Obama assured her that he planned to send staff to Arizona in two weeks to discuss plans for beefed-up border security with her office. The president said last week that he plans to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border and invest $500 million in related resources.
Brewer’s meeting with Obama comes as the Justice Department weighs a challenge to a new Arizona law that has drawn fire from the White House and immigration overhaul advocates. The law, which takes effect July 29, requires that individuals carry documentation proving their immigration status and that law enforcement officers question people they suspect may be in the country illegally.
The Arizona governor said the president tried to avoid that topic during their meeting. “He indicated that he was leaving that up to the Department of Justice and did not want to discuss that in any kind of detail today,” she said. “So that was kind of brushed over a little bit.”
Brewer added that she was “not successful” in her efforts to get information from Obama about beginning construction on a fence along the border.
The White House issued a statement saying that the two agreed that federal inaction on a comprehensive immigration overhaul “is unacceptable.” Obama outlined what he considers the essential components of an overhaul: strengthened border security, more employer accountability and a path to legalization for illegal immigrants currently in the country.
The president also asked for Brewer’s help in creating a bipartisan solution, the White House statement said, but his efforts didn’t appear to have much effect. When Brewer was asked whether she committed to building GOP support for a comprehensive overhaul, she replied, “No.”
Immigration overhaul activists, holding signs such as “Shame on Arizona” and “We Want Comprehensive Reform, Not a Police State,” gathered outside the White House to protest the Arizona law.
“By coming to D.C. and meeting with the president, Gov. Brewer has become the Republican face of the immigration debate,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.
“Her visit wraps [the Arizona law] — which was passed with only Republican support — firmly around the necks of the GOP” Noorani said. “Do they want to ally themselves with a law that is leading Brewer to lose Hispanic voters hand over fist?”