Gov. Jan Brewer said federal officials offered little of consequence and promised even less in a highly anticipated meeting to discuss Arizona’s border security issues.
Brewer and Attorney General Terry Goddard, who met separately with a handful of federal officials on June 28, painted starkly differing pictures of the federal government’s plans for securing Arizona’s border with Mexico.
John Brennan, a homeland security and counterterrorism advisor to President Barack Obama, pledged in his meeting with the governor to deploy 524 National Guard troops to the border in the next two months, reinforce 22 miles of preexisting fencing and ask Congress for $600 million to hire 1,000 more Border Patrol agents and 300 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Brewer said.
The National Guard deployment was less than Brewer expected after a June 3 meeting at the White House with Obama, when the president told the governor that Arizona would get the majority of a planned 1,200-troop deployment. Brewer said she did not think the 524 troops were enough to secure the border.
“Certainly what we heard wasn’t anything of what we had hoped to hear from them,” Brewer told reporters in the eighth-floor lobby of the executive tower. “No really substantial information was provided that would make us happy or pleased with the discussions.”
Goddard, on the other hand, said the 524 National Guard troops was only a first step meant to provide temporary relief while the federal government formulates a larger border security plan.
“This is not the end of the game. This is just the beginning. This is a number that is meant to provide some stopgap relief. They made it very clear this is not the end of the show,” Goddard said.
Brewer abandoned the aggressive, defiant tone she has taken recently when talking about border security discussions with the federal government, and sounded somber and downbeat as she detailed her 90-minute meeting with Brennan and officials from U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol.
The governor said she wanted the White House to deploy 3,000 troops to Arizona, a provision of U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl’s border security plan. She also said the federal officials did not address a proposal she recently sent to the White House that calls for increased aerial surveillance and other security measures at the border.
Instead, she said, all they got was a Power Point presentation from the feds, who didn’t even provide the governor a hard copy of the information it contained.
“It was sad. It was unfortunate, I believe, that we did not receive the information,” Brewer said. “Maybe that was done purposely, maybe not.”
The governor was especially displeased that the White House is providing $310 million for anti-border crime efforts in Mexico while appropriating only $135 million for National Guard deployments in the United States.
Brewer’s characterization of the meeting was in sharp contrast to Goddard’s. The attorney general met the officials earlier in the day at the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Tucson office, along with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and nearly two dozen border-area law enforcement officials. Goddard said more can be done but that the 524 National Guard troops was a good start, and said he was encouraged by the Obama administration’s pledge to draw up a set of border security benchmarks.
Goddard, the Democratic nominee for governor who will face Brewer in the November general election if she wins the GOP primary, said he was given the impression that the White House would complete the benchmark plan within the next several weeks.
“What they made very clear is this is a process, not a result, that they are continuing to evaulate how best to attack the strategic issue of border security and border crime, and they will be coming up with a comprehensive plan,” Goddard told the Arizona Capitol Times. “The urgency of the situation was well understood.”
Conversely, Brewer said Brennan and the other officials said nothing that gave her the impression that the National Guard deployment was just the first step in a broader plan. She said the National Guard would send 524 troops to Arizona’s border, but that the total number would be lower for most of the year-long deployment. The troops’s duties will primarily include surveillance and intelligence gathering.
In a press statement, McCain said that 524 troops are not enough to provide adequate security along the border.
“I know from first-hand experience that 524 National Guard troops along the Arizona-Mexico border is not sufficient to ensure the safety of the citizens of State of Arizona and protect its 370-mile border with Mexico,” McCain said in the statement.
Both Brewer and Goddard said they did not discuss the Department of Justice lawsuit that is being proposed against Arizona over S1070, the state’s strict new illegal immigration law.
Brennan was one of about 10 federal officials who met with Brewer, her top staffers and her security cabinet. Also attending were Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Alan Bersin; ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton; Bruce Swartz, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Justice; John McShane, an officer with the National Intelligence Council; Jason Mayer, a member of the president’s national security staff; and Brigadier Gen. Brian Bishop, deputy director for politico-military affairs at the Pentagon.