Reporting from Boston — Arizona's sweeping illegal immigration law has reignited debate throughout the country about calls for comprehensive reform. But as the nation's governors gathered this weekend, the topic was absent from their agenda, even as demonstrators rallied nearby.
Organizers of the National Governors Assn.'s summer meeting said there was no conscious effort to avoid the topic, but they conceded that differences among state leaders made it an unlikely discussion point.
"Governors have different points of view, [and] we're a consensus-based organization," said Gov. Jim Douglas (R-Vt.), the organization's chairman. "My view, and I know some of my colleagues' views, is what's happening in Arizona — regardless of what you feel about it — points to the need for a federal solution."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed Arizona Senate Bill 1070, did attract attention and was swarmed by reporters at the first public event of the meeting. Brewer said that some of her colleagues had expressed support for Arizona's action and were eagerly tracking the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit seeking to block it.
"They do understand the problems that we face," said Brewer, a Republican . "People want the federal government to do their job, and if they won't do it, the states will do it."
While governors have offered differing opinions on Arizona's law, there was widespread agreement that the federal government needed to act.
"I thought a couple years ago we were on the road to finding one," Douglas said, referring to a failed effort by President George W. Bush in 2007. "Well, it didn't happen. So we've got to find a way to recognize the reality of the problem while respecting laws of our country."
Even some of Brewer's Republican colleagues were cool to the idea of passing similar laws in their states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for instance, said he did not want to further burden local law enforcement with what is a federal concern. Others said the states faced more pressing issues, particularly with regard to budgets.
"It's still an issue of national importance, but it's not — at least in some parts of the country — as hot as it was," Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said.
Groups opposed to the Arizona measure organized a march on the convention site. The Washington-based ANSWER Coalition expected more than 1,000 to attend, but only several hundred gathered for the rally. Heavy rain further diminished the turnout.