The Brewer-Obama Faceoff

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Our colleague Elizabeth Dias files this report:

Two days ago Michelle Obama launched Let’s Move Outside! at Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas to fight childhood obesity. This afternoon Obama faced a different desert activism outside the White House as he met with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, SB1070, set to become law on July 29, has kept Brewer in the national hot seat since she signed it in April. Today is no exception. Obama has maintained a critical stance against the Arizona bill that will require police to ask a person’s immigration status if the person is stopped for another reason. Hillary Clinton has also said the bill undoubtedly invites racial profiling. But Brewer comes to D.C. fighting back, citing changes to the bill (now police can’t question people based upon race) and demanding Obama give explicit answers to how his Administration can help her state.

Brewer will meet Obama with the tough and passionate stance she showed on CNN’s John King Tuesday night. She’ll need that resolve, especially if Obama’s looming legal suit against the bill goes through. But if that happens, as she boldly told CNN, “I’ll meet [him] in court. I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

Brewer has the American public broadly on her side—a national survey from the Pew Research Center report on the bill last month indicates a whopping 73% approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. And that statistic crosses party lines—86% of Republicans and 65% of Democrats approve. Young people are less supportive—only 45% of people 18-29 approve of SB1070.

Overnight Facebook and Twitter organizing by Service Employees National Union, National Organization of Women, Reform Immigration for America, and Catholics United prompted nearly 200 protesters—the majority under 30—to picket Brewer at her last-minute White House meeting. Loud drums, megaphones, and even a mariachi band made their message clear in English and Spanish cheers. “Governor Brewer, we’re telling you loud, federal action must be now!” “Sí se puede!”

Frank and Rachel Angulo, third-generation citizens from Tempe, Arizona, interrupted their vacation to join the protest because racial profiling is still an enormous personal and state risk. “I am demonstrating here for Arizona. I’m from Arizona, my wife’s from Arizona,” Frank told TIME. “We’re going backwards in Arizona, and we just need to be treated equal.”

It looks like an Arizona summer monsoon is set to follow on the heels of this immigration dust storm.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Dias

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