Gov. Jan Brewer has called off a September border conference in Phoenix due to Mexican governors’ objections to Arizona’s tough new immigration enforcement law, though some officials are discussing holding the annual gathering elsewhere.
It was Arizona’s turn to host the 28th annual U.S.-Mexico Border Governors Conference for four U.S. governors and six from Mexico. But Brewer said Wednesday the meeting was canceled because the Mexican governors planned to boycott it.
Brewer said she was disappointed about the boycott and hoped the governors of New Mexico, Texas and California would support her decision.
“The people of Arizona and the people of America support what Arizona has done,” Brewer said. “For them to basically not attend here because of that, I think is unfair.”
However, the governors of New Mexico and California are trying to go ahead with the conference in another state, with or without Arizona’s participation, spokesmen said.
In a June letter, governors from the Mexican states of Baja California, Coahuila, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas said Arizona’s new immigration law violates civil rights and has provisions based on ethnic and cultural prejudices. They suggested relocating the conference to a different U.S. border state.
The New York Times reported the cancellation of the Arizona conference Wednesday.
The Arizona law takes effect July 29 unless blocked by a court. It requires police officers, while enforcing other laws, to check a person’s immigration status if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” the person is here illegally. The law does not define reasonable suspicion, but police training materials say triggers for such checks can include speaking poor English, traveling in a crowded vehicle and hanging out in an area where illegal immigrants typically congregate.
Brewer, who denies that the law promotes racial profiling by law enforcement, said the conference would have been a good opportunity to discuss the Mexican governors’ concerns.
“I just think it’s a shame that they have responded this way,” she said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson thinks Brewer lacks the authority to cancel the conference and was surprised by her decision, said spokesman Gilbert Gallegos.
Richardson, a Democrat, still wants to hold the conference and is looking for another location, Gallegos said.
New Mexico could host the conference but that could be expensive, so ways to reduce costs are being considered, he said.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, thinks the meeting is a valuable time to work on border issues and also wants to go ahead with it, said spokesman Francisco Castillo.
“He is proud of the success they have accomplished over the years to tackle their shared challenges, and he looks forward to continuing the dialogue this year at an alternative site,” Castillo said.
Schwarzenegger has not offered to hold the event in his state, and Castillo said he doesn’t know yet if the governor will offer to host it. California was host to the meeting in 2008.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, would welcome meeting with any border governors to discuss common concerns but thinks staging a September conference at this point is “probably not feasible, regardless of where that would be held,” spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said. “That does take quite a bit of planning.”
Brewer said she isn’t ruling out attending the conference in another location, but her attendance would depend on when the meeting is held.