Governors Skip Border Conference

By: - September 30, 2011 12:00 am

For the second year in a row, three of the four U.S. governors whose states adjoin Mexico are skipping an annual conference with their counterparts from south of the border, highlighting the frosty relations between Mexico and the United States over U.S. immigration policy.

Jan Brewer of Arizona, Jerry Brown of California and Rick Perry of Texas are not attending this year’s meeting with Mexican governors in Ensenada, Mexico, leaving Susana Martinez of New Mexico as the only U.S. governor in attendance. All three governors who are skipping the event said their schedules would not allow them to go, The New York Times reports .

While scheduling may be an issue, it is U.S. immigration policy that has overshadowed the meeting for the last two years.

Last year, Brewer canceled the meeting — scheduled to be held at a resort in Phoenix — after her Mexican counterparts threatened to boycott it over her state’s controversial new immigration law, which was then the toughest state measure in the nation. (Alabama has since passed a law, partially upheld by a federal judge this week , that is considered stricter.) Last year’s conference eventually took place in New Mexico after then-Governor Bill Richardson agreed to host it, but Richardson was the only U.S. chief executive to attend. Then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger backed out at the last minute .

This year, Alabama and several other states, including Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina, have approved their own Arizona-like crackdowns on illegal immigrants, making the subject even more sensitive as the border governors’ conference gets under way. The states’ crackdown on immigration is so aggressive that the Justice Department plans to take the unusual step of suing to block most of the measures, as The Washington Post reports today (September 30).

For Perry, meanwhile, the race for the Republican presidential nomination has focused attention on his immigration positions, which are considered too moderate by many in the GOP electorate. The Texas governor is under fire for allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state rates, and he drew criticism from members of his own party for saying that those opposed to such a policy “don’t have a heart.”

The New York Times notes that while the governors of Arizona and California sent representatives to this year’s meeting, Perry sent no one.

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