WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama hosted Gov. Jan Brewer at the White House June 3 for what Brewer termed a “very cordial discussion” on Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law, in which Obama promised to send top White House officials to the state in advance of a new influx of border troops.
Speaking with reporters outside the White House after the meeting, Brewer said she and the president had agreed to open more lines of communications. But, she said, there are some areas in which both sides recognize they will not find common ground, yet.
“We agreed to kind of work together in order to find some solutions. We know that we’re not going to agree on certain issues until other issues are worked out. And so we are going to begin some really direct dialogue,” Brewer said.
Obama told Brewer he will send aides to Arizona to meet with the governor’s staff after budgeting $500 million to send an additional 1,200 troops to patrol the border. Obama aides will brief Arizona officials on their plans to cut down on illegal immigration.
Brewer said she conveyed her wishes to the president – that construction begin on a border fence that would reduce illegal immigration. But Obama gave no commitment on building a fence.
“I would like to see construction started on the fence on the border, and I tried to get that kind of information from him today,” Brewer said. “I was not successful.”
Obama has long been a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, and the White House said he underscored his point that security measures won’t be enough to completely solve the illegal immigration problem. In addition to securing the border, Obama wants penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants. What’s more, Obama said he favors a path to citizenship, provided those in the country illegally pay a fine, pay taxes and learn English.
“The president urged Gov. Brewer to be his partner in working in a bipartisan manner on comprehensive immigration reform to implement the type of smart, sensible, and effective solutions the American people expect and deserve from their federal government,” a White House press statement says. Obama “reiterated his concern with (S1070), including that a patchwork of different state immigration regulations around the country would interfere with the federal government’s responsibility to set and enforce immigration policy.”
Brewer said Obama refused to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit aimed at striking down the new law. Instead, Obama has said he will leave that decision up to his lawyers, a position he stuck to June 3.
“He indicated he was leaving that up to the Department of Justice,” Brewer said when asked whether the two had discussed the lawsuit. “That was kind of brushed over a little bit.”
A Justice Department spokesperson did not return email seeking comment, but government lawyers are reportedly discussing the appropriate avenue by which to challenge the law in court.
A White House official, who requested anonymity to lay out the points Obama made in the meeting, said Obama highlighted the Southwest Border Initiative, which has deployed hundreds of additional troops and intelligence officers, as well as vehicles and new technology to combat illegal immigration. In the last year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies have seized 1,400 weapons and 1.6 million kilograms of drugs, dramatic increases from the same period the previous year, the official said.
Brewer requested the sit-down meeting with Obama, though she wanted it held on Wednesday. Instead, Obama was in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, addressing the ongoing economic recovery efforts. Obama’s staff made time in his schedule on Thursday.