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Obama, Jan Brewer Talk Immigration, Promise Cooperation

5 years ago
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Having spent the last few weeks expressing his dismay over the recently signed Arizona immigration bill, President Obama likely had at least one bone to pick with the state's governor, Jan Brewer, who came to the White House on Thursday.

But after the meeting, it seemed that the Democratic president and the Republican governor found a bit of common ground on immigration.

Taking questions outside the West Wing, Brewer described the president as "very cordial" and said "they agreed to work together to find a solution" to illegal immigration. But she also defended her state's tough new immigration law – a measure Obama has called "misguided" – that makes it a crime to be without documentation of immigration status, and allows police to inquire into immigration status if they are stopping or arresting someone for other reasons.

"I feel very confident that what we have done in the past was the right thing to do. I believe that we are protecting the people of Arizona," Brewer said. But she also voiced support for comprehensive immigration reform -- a White House priority -- and added that she looked forward to "more closely coordinated efforts" between federal and state governments.

The White House, in an official statement, echoed these sentiments. "The president and governor agreed that the lack of action to fix the broken system at the federal level is unacceptable," and that Obama "urged Governor Brewer to be his partner in working in a bipartisan manner on comprehensive immigration reform." According to the statement, the president made clear his belief that security measures alone would not fix border problems, and expressed his "concern" that measures like the Arizona law would complicate broader efforts at the federal level.

If nothing specific resulted from the president and governor's discussions of the Arizona immigration law, SB 1070, at least there was a renewed sense of cooperation on comprehensive immigration reform. On a host of issues, the president needs some friends in conservative places, perhaps none more so than immigration, where once bipartisan support -- led by Arizona Sen. John McCain -- has taken a nosedive.
Later on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs highlighted this point, saying "McCain was very instrumental in getting immigration reform to the point that it was in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I doubt we're going to get comprehensive immigration reform if we don't have John McCain doing what he believed in during those years. [Brewer] is the governor of that state and hopefully will let both the senators from Arizona... know that the way to best deal with immigration reform is to [do something] comprehensive at the federal level."

Brewer seems an unlikely ally for Obama in a push to get conservative support for a federal immigration bill, but she certainly holds sway with McCain, who is battling to win re-election this fall. McCain endorsed SB 1070 in a move many saw as a strategic decision to court conservative votes. If Obama can use Brewer's declared cooperation to convince McCain to come back to the table on immigration reform, perhaps there's hope yet for a comprehensive bill.

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