Gov. Jan Brewer provides behind-the-scenes details in her new book about her handling of Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law last year, including a tense meeting with President Barack Obama and her administration’s attempts to avoid being branded racist over the crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Brewer devotes much of the book to defending the immigration law, describing it as a fair, effective and necessary response to what she said amounts to Washington turning a blind eye on border security. She said her administration was aware early on that the state would face an outcry and allegations of racism, and responded by making what they thought were important changes to the law to minimize those concerns.
Brewer’s 228-page book is going on sale on Nov. 1. The Associated Press purchased a copy early.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote the book’s foreword, calling Brewer a straight-talker who does what she believes is right even when it’s difficult. The book is called “Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America’s Border.”
Brewer focused heavily on her fight against Washington on the immigration issue, and the book hardly touched on her 2010 successful election campaign. It made no mention of an embarrassing pause during a televised debate that drew national attention.
Brewer blames Obama and his administration for fanning controversy surrounding the immigration law, which grew to include ongoing court challenges, mass protests and boycotts of Arizona.
The Republican governor said Obama, labor unions and other critics of the bill were serving their own agendas by mischaracterizing its provisions while trying to deflect attention from weaknesses in border security.
Brewer wrote that Arizona’s illegal immigration crisis had been intensifying as the state became an attractive gateway for drug and human smuggling.
With fallout that included smugglers hiding immigrants in urban drop houses and engaging in shootouts with competitors, the state enacted several laws. That included a 2007 law, recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, to penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Brewer said momentum for an additional state response grew when an Arizona rancher was fatally shot about 20 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border in March 2010, when SB1070 was already working its way through the Legislature. Authorities said footprints led to the border, but the case is unsolved.
After the rancher’s killing, it wasn’t acceptable to do nothing about a crisis that puts the public, particularly border-area residents, at risk while burdening the state with added costs for schools, prisons and hospitals, Brewer said. She called it a “state of fear” that needed to end.
The law elevated Brewer to the national political stage and led to a meeting with Obama in Washington. Brewer said she had difficulty arranging the meeting with Obama, but that one finally was scheduled for June 3.
Brewer told reporters after the White House meeting that it was cordial and worthwhile, but she wrote in the book that Obama spent 10 minutes lecturing her about a need for comprehensive immigration reform. She said it amounted to a stump speech and not a useful dialogue.
The Obama administration later sued Brewer to stop the law, arguing that federal jurisdiction over immigration matters pre-empted the Arizona law.
A federal judge allowed some provisions to take effect but blocked others. Those blocked include a widely publicized one that would have required that police, while enforcing other laws, question people’s immigration status if officers have reasonable suspicion they’re in the country illegally.
Brewer said she considered the federal government’s lawsuit more of a challenge against the American public as a whole than just Arizona.
Brewer said she drew strength from prayer during the debate, but added she was troubled during one public appearance before a Hispanic group when audience members chanted for her to veto the bill. She said she cut short a question-and-answer period because no dialogue was apparently possible.
In her introduction, Brewer she had thought idealistically that she could cut through politics by proposing practical solutions. But she quickly learned that was incorrect, she said.
She wrote briefly about her relations with the Republican-led Legislature, saying GOP lawmakers expected her to rubber-stamp their bills after she replaced Democrat Janet Napolitano as governor.
Brewer said her vetoes changed that impression, but it still took her more than a year to win legislative approval for holding a referendum on a temporary sales tax increase to help balance the state’s budget.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the increase in May 2010, providing Brewer with a major political win that, combined with public support for SB1070, set her up for an easy election win last November.
The book was published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books. Her acknowledgements thank writer Jessica Gavora for helping Brewer share “the truth” on SB1070.