Immigration: When Does "Enforcement First" Become Enforcement Only?


Last week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer met with President Obama to discuss immigration and border security. Gov. Brewer described the meeting as “cordial,” but neither the President nor the Governor discussed the Justice Department’s plan to move forward with a lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law—a law which President Obama has publicly criticized as “misguided.” They did, however, discuss specifics of the most recent round of border-first strategies (the President assured Brewer that he would send White House staff to Arizona in two weeks to further discuss beefing up the border). Although the President asked Gov. Brewer for help “in creating a bipartisan solution” to our immigration problems, Gov. Brewer was unwilling to play ball, which makes one wonder how far the President is willing to go on the border-first strategy without any promise of GOP support for comprehensive reform?

As he has in the past, the President advocated for a border security plan within the context of a larger immigration overhaul during his meeting last week. According to a White House press statement following the meeting:

As he did at the recent meeting with Senate Republicans, the President underscored that security measures alone won’t fix the broken borders, there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform that includes: lasting and dedicated resources by which to secure our borders and make our communities safer; holding unscrupulous employers accountable who hire workers illegally and exploit them and providing clear guidance for the many employers who want to play by the rules; and requiring those who have come here illegally to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and get right with the law.

The President also asked for Gov. Brewer’s help in garnering GOP support (i.e. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl) for a comprehensive overhaul, but to no avail. Much like a wind-up toy, Gov. Brewer was unable to say anything other than “borders-first.”

When Brewer was asked whether she committed to building GOP support for a comprehensive overhaul, she replied, “No.”

While President Obama and Gov. Brewer agreed that “federal inaction on a comprehensive immigration overhaul is unacceptable,” she has done nothing to substantiate that notion. Meanwhile, Gov. Brewer admits that crime is down in Arizona (as well as other border towns), even though she has repeatedly claimed that her state is “under siege” from border crime. As the L.A. Times subtly points out, Gov. Brewer is a “Republican who is up for reelection.”

But the question remains, how much longer is President Obama willing to placate the supporters of a border-first strategy? Offering up more and more to the border-firsters, and gaining nothing in return for comprehensive immigration reform, may leave the President—and the country—with a border-only policy. Although border-first is what Gov. Brewer, Senator McCain, and Senator Kyl want, it isn’t what the public wants. According to a recent poll, “opinion research shows that rather than a newfound wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, most Americans support Arizona’s law as well as national comprehensive immigration reform,” which “is driven by a desire for action by Washington on a problem that has been left unattended for too long.” If President Obama is really worried about a “patchwork of different state immigration regulations around the country” instead of an immigration overhaul, why pour more money and resources into a border-only solution?

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