Gov. Jan Brewer took a noncommittal stance on immigration reform plan unveiled by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, saying she will review the plan in the coming weeks.
Most notably, the governor did mention the plan’s proposed pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, which hardliners on the issue often view as “amnesty” for people who break immigration laws.
Brewer, who rose to national prominent in 2010 on a get-tough-on-illegal-immigration platform after signing SB 1070, gave few clues as to what position she’ll ultimately take on the comprehensive immigration reform plan. She said was encouraged by the emphasis the plan puts on border security, and said reform will not work unless the border is secured first.
“I am pleased that there is expressed recognition of what we have been saying in Arizona: Immigration reform will not succeed unless and until we have achieved effective border security. If this occurs, it would be a triumph for the rule of law and a testament to the united voices of Americans from across our country who have been clear in their call for the federal government to uphold its duty to secure the border,” Brewer said in a press statement Monday afternoon.
Most of Brewer’s four-paragraph press statement focused on border security issues. But she left open the possibility of supporting the overall plan as well.
“I am hopeful that the immigration system is reformed in a manner that combines the rule of law and human compassion, while strengthening the United States’ competitive position in the world,” she said.
Brewer said the U.S. cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the last major immigration reform effort in 1986, which she said left the border unsecured at great cost to Arizona and other border states. She emphasized that the Tucson sector of the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured.
The plan introduced Monday by the so-called “Gang of Eight,” which includes Arizona U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, calls for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the United States, but makes that pathway contingent on increased border security. President Obama, with whom Brewer has frequently sparred with over illegal immigration and border security, plans to unveil his own immigration reform plan in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Brewer said she has spoken to McCain about the Gang of Eight’s plan. While she reviews the plan and awaits details from actual proposed legislation, Brewer said she will speak with ranchers, business leaders, law enforcement officials and residents of the border region.
“I will continue to talk with those on the front lines and I will make sure their voices are heard. I am committed to doing everything within my power to make certain our federal government finally upholds its obligation to secure America’s borders,” Brewer said.
Brewer has advocated strict border security enforcement and championed state-level enforcement of the style enshrined in SB 1070, but has traditionally shied away from taking positions on a pathway to citizen or DREAM Act-style legislation, saying instead that immigration reform shouldn’t be addressed until the border is secure.
Last year, Brewer excoriated Obama over his executive order granting legal status to people who came to the country illegally as children, and issued an executive order of her own denying driver’s licenses and other state benefits to illegal immigrants who would receive legal status under Obama’s deferred action program.