Governors balk at federal immigration suit
Democrats worry that challenging Arizona law will cost party this fall
BOSTON — In a private meeting with White House officials this weekend, Democratic governors voiced deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s suit against Arizona’s new immigration law, worrying that it could cost a vulnerable Democratic Party in the fall elections.
While the weak economy dominated the official agenda at the summer meeting in Boston of the National Governors Association, concern over immigration policy pervaded the closed-door session between Democratic governors and White House officials and simmered throughout the three-day event.
At the Democrats’ meeting Saturday, some governors bemoaned the timing of the Justice Department lawsuit, according to two governors who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Universally the governors are saying, ‘We’ve got to talk about jobs,’ ” Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said in an interview. “And all of a sudden we have immigration going on.”
He added, “It is such a toxic subject, such an important time for Democrats.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in town to give the governors a classified national security briefing, met one-on-one with Jan Brewer, the Republican who succeeded her as governor of Arizona and ardently supports the immigration law.
Brewer said they did not discuss the lawsuit.
Instead, in a conversation she described as cordial, they discussed Arizona’s request for more National Guard troops along the border with Mexico, as well as other resources.
But about the same time that the two were meeting, Attorney General Eric Holder said on a taped Sunday talk show that the Justice Department could bring yet another lawsuit against Arizona if there is evidence that the immigration law leads to racial profiling.
Republican governors at the Boston meeting were also critical of the lawsuit, saying it infringed on states’ rights and rallying around Brewer, whose presence spurred a raucous protest around the downtown hotel where the governors gathered.
Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said, “It’s a sad day in America when the federal government sues a state for passing a law, the reason for which is because the federal government is not doing its job.” Chris Mason of Cambridge, Mass., rallies against Arizona’s immigration law Saturday in Boston, where Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was attending the meeting of the National Governors Association.