In a memorable performance this week, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer refused to defend previously made anti-immigrant statements regarding undocumented immigrants and beheadings during a gubernatorial debate with Attorney General and Democratic candidate, Terry Goddard. While Governor Brewer’s opening remarks meltdown is at least understandable, her inability/refusal to defend controversial anti-immigrant statements—which has become the centerpiece of her re-election platform—is not. Unable to respond to reporters’ questions about these maligned statements, Governor Brewer abruptly walked off camera. As gubernatorial candidates in other states consider running for the “toughest-on-immigration title,” Governor Brewer’s meltdown might serve as an example of what happens when punditry meets public debate and statements are made without merit.
After sparring with Democratic candidate Terry Goddard over the state’s budget, sales tax, immigration, and the boycotts, Governor Brewer dodged Goddard’s call for her to recant her claim that “Arizona’s law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded.” Afterwards, reporters, smelling blood, peppered her with questions about the “beheadings.” Not surprisingly, when confronted by her stunning misstatements, the same Jan Brewer who blithely told the press that SB 1070 would protect Arizona, simply walked away from reporters.
In fact, Governor Brewer has made several patently false or misinformed statements regarding immigration and crime, violence and drugs in an attempt to justify the implementation of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070, and perhaps to garner public support for her candidacy. Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, writes:
“Brewer’s mindlessness about headlessness is just one of the immigration falsehoods being spread by Arizona politicians,” he wrote. “Border violence on the rise? Phoenix becoming the world’s No. 2 kidnapping capital? Illegal immigrants responsible for most police killings? The majority of those crossing the border are drug mules? All wrong.”
So as other gubernatorial candidates—Republican Charles Baker and Independent Timothy Cahill in Massachusetts, Republican Robert Bentley in Alabama, Democrat Roy Barnes and former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal in Georgia, for example—square off on immigration in their respective races, perhaps they might take Governor Brewer’s meltdown as an example of what happens when candidates jump on the immigration bandwagon and try to out anti-immigrant their opponents without the facts.
Governor Brewer, who followed up on her debate gaffe with “I’m human, I’m human,” might also consider that the undocumented immigrants she accuses of being “drug mules, beheaders and violent criminals” are human, too. While demonizing immigrants may help win elections, people will soon begin to realize that fear-mongering is a poor substitute for real solutions to our immigration problems.