Tue, June 25

Brewer-Obama to debate border security, immigration law

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer is going to get her face-to-face meeting with President Obama.

The White House confirmed late Tuesday that the president intends to make some time on Thursday to sit down with the Arizona governor to hear her concerns about border security. No specific time has been set.

Tuesday's announcement is a sharp reversal from the rebuff the White House delivered last week to the governor, who is in Washington this week for another meeting, when she first asked for time with Obama.

At that time, a White House spokesman said Obama's schedule "doesn't allow for a meeting' but that the president "does intend to sit down with the Governor in the future.'

That future apparently is now.

According to the White House, the president "looks forward to discussing matters of mutual interest with Gov. Brewer.' That specifically includes what the administration has been doing on border security since the president took office.

But Brewer's efforts for a similar sit-down this week with homeland security chief Janet Napolitano remain unfulfilled.

Agency spokesman Matt Chandler said Napolitano -- who also was Brewer's predecessor as governor -- is "unavailable' for the times when the current governor can meet. But he said Napolitano wants to meet with both Brewer and Attorney General Terry Goddard "in the near future.'

Brewer is in Washington this week to talk with other governors who, like her, are members of a special council of governors the president appointed to provide him with advice on issues of homeland security. The trip is to prepare for a July meeting of the actual council.

Brewer's office did not respond for requests for information about a possible meeting.

But the governor, in an interview Tuesday with CNN's John King, said she knows what she wants to tell Obama.

"I think that it would probably be, Mr. President, we need our borders secured,' the governor said.

"How can we work together to get it done?' Brewer continued. "We need your help.'

Brewer told King that Arizonans have been "putting up with this' for about a decade. "We can't tolerate it any longer.'

The governor met face-to-face with Obama only once, last year.

Since that time the Legislature has passed -- and Brewer has signed -- what is believed to be one of the toughest state laws aimed at combatting illegal immigration.

It requires police to check immigration status of those they have stopped if there is "reasonable suspicion' they are in this country illegally. And it makes being an illegal immigrant a violation of state law.

The president has publicly announced his opposition to the law "the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion.' Obama also said a "fair reading' of the law suggests those who simply appear to be illegal immigrants could be "harassed or arrested.'

Obama also directed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the constitutionality of the statute, including whether it improperly intrudes on the exclusive power of the federal government to regulate immigration. Justice Department lawyers met last week with both state Attorney General Terry Goddard and private lawyers Brewer hired to defend the law but have yet to take any formal action.

The only response came in a prepared statement from spokeswoman Hannah August saying her agency continues to have "concerns' about the law.

Brewer told King she is not worried if the president says the Justice Department will sue.

"I would say, well, we'll meet you in court,' the governor said. "I have a pretty good record of winning in court.'

Five lawsuits already have been filed in federal court challenging various provisions of the law. All of them ask a judge to block the statute from taking effect as scheduled on July 29.