Jan Brewer Squares Off With President Obama, But Real Fight on Arizona Immigration to Come at Supreme Court

Things got out of hand when Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and President Obama met yesterday in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Brewer came to greet President Barack Obama at the airport, and after stepping off of Air Force One, she handed him a letter, they started talking, and according to one photo from the scene, she waved her finger in Obama’s face.

Asked moments later what her heated conversation with Obama was about, Brewer said: “He was a little disturbed about my book.” Brewer recently published a book entitled, “Scorpions for Breakfast,” which defends her signing of Arizona’s controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants (which Obama opposes). 

The media is making a big deal of the spat, asking whether Brewer "disrespected" President Obama and calling her behavior a "blow-up." Apparently, President Obama was objecting to Brewer’s description in the book of a meeting he and Brewer had at the White House, where she described Obama as lecturing her. Here's how Brewer described that meeting in 2010: “I felt a little bit like I was being lectured to, and I was a little kid in a classroom, if you will, and he was this wise professor and I was this little kid, and this little kid knows what the problem is and I felt minimized to say the least.”

But Obama and Brewer's tiff is trivial when compared to the monumental fight ahead over Arizona's immigration bill in the Supreme Court this year. Apparently, Brewer handed Obama an envelope on the tarmac with a handwritten invitation to return to Arizona to meet her for lunch and to join her for a visit to the border. She told reporters, “I said to him, you know, I have always respected the office of the president and that the book is what the book is. ... Anyway, we’re glad he’s here, and we’ll regroup.”

The battle ahead in the Supreme Court will not pass over this easily. SCOTUS will decide in coming months whether Arizona and other states can target illegal immigrants for arrest, setting up an election-year ruling that will throw the Court directly into the 2012 presidential contest. The Arizona case will likely decide the fate of stronger enforcement laws adopted in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah.

The case began in July 2010 when the Obama administration filed suit in Phoenix against Arizona's SB 1070, which requires police to check the immigration status of people they lawfully stop and suspect of being in the country illegally. The law also makes illegal immigration a state crime.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked much of the law from taking effect, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her decision. At issue is whether states may enforce immigration laws on their own, or instead must closely follow the lead of the federal government.

Elena Kagan had stepped aside in the case, which may create a 4-4 split; a tie vote would give a win to the Obama administration.

What's clear is the Obama vs. Brewer scuffle that began on a Pheonix tarmac is a prelude to a true showdown over immigration in 2012.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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