Gov. Jan Brewer wants face time next week with President Barack Obama to tell him what she feels he needs to do to secure the border.
Brewer said Friday she also wants to talk with homeland security chief Janet Napolitano about border issues. The governor said her predecessor, who was very critical of the federal response to her own calls for more security, has “turned a blind eye” on Arizona’s problems since arriving in Washington more than a year ago.
Those meetings are not going to happen — at least not right now.
“We remain in regular contact with the Governor and her staff,” said White House spokesman Adam Abrams. “While the President’s schedule next week doesn’t allow for a meeting, he does intend to sit down with the Governor in the future.”
Matt Chandler, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, acknowledged Brewer’s request to sit down with Napolitano, along with a similar query from Attorney General Terry Goddard.
“While the Secretary was unavailable for the times Governor Brewer and Attorney General Goddard initially requested, she intends to meet with both in the near future,” Chandler said.
But Chandler suggested that Brewer’s comments about Napolitano are not based in fact. He provided a litany of statistics about the number of new people and pieces of new equipment that have been placed on the border since the Obama administration took over.
Brewer, however, said Napolitano’s own words — both now and when she was governor — belie that.
The governor cited in particular testimony by Napolitano last month to a Senate committee saying the border is “as secure now as it has ever been.”
“If you would look at some of her correspondence previously, they weren’t very secure,” Brewer said, referring to a series of letters Napolitano, as governor, sent to Michael Chertoff who was homeland security chief in the Bush administration.
Brewer said that sentiment by Napolitano at least part of the reason she wants to meet personally with Obama to give him what she believes is an accurate accounting of the real situation.
“I think that he owes it to the people of Arizona, if not to the people of the United States, to sit down and have a conversation with him in regards to what is needed at our border. We need to secure them,” Brewer said.
The governor said she has not talked with the president since he announced his plans earlier this week to put 1,200 National Guard troops along the border. Brewer said she hasn’t yet obtained any details on what that will mean to Arizona.
“But I think it’s important that the leader of the United States and the governor of the state of Arizona sit down face to face and have a conversation of exactly what is going on in Arizona and ask him for his help and hope that he responds positively,” she said.
The governor already is planning a trip to Washington this coming week to talk with other governors who, like her, are members of a special council 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 comments about what Napolitano told the Senate about border security do not reflect the complete testimony.
While the former governor did say the border is as secure as it has ever been, she also told senators that every goal set by Congress for her department to improve border security has been met “or is within a hair’s breadth of being completed.” That includes number of agents, deployment of technology and construction of new fencing.
And she said Congress needs to decide exactly what is expected.
“One of the questions I think we need to talk about is whether securing the border is ever going to be reached in the sense of the Congress, or whether that goal post is going to keep moving,” Napolitano said.
Asked for a response of Brewer’s comments, Napolitano’s press office provided a fact sheet of accomplishments since she took over, including adding 110 new special agents to the Border Enforcement Security Task Forces, tripling the number of intelligence analysts Immigration and Customs Enforcement has on the southwest border and deploying 13 additional canine teams to identify firearms and currency on top of the five.