How ironic that a border governors conference intended to bring people together would have the opposite effect. The last time there was this much rhetorical skirmishing on the U.S.-Mexico border, James K. Polk was president, the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy was Manifest Destiny and the U.S.-Mexican war was about to break out.
Luckily, this time, the only war is a war of words. It all started when six Mexican governors decided to boycott the 27th annual meeting of U.S. and Mexican border governors in September because the conference was to be held in Phoenix. There was there no way they were going to step foot in Arizona, the Mexican governors told Gov. Jan Brewer in a letter, given the state's controversial new immigration law, which requires local police to determine the legal status of anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally. Brewer responded with a letter of her own, announcing that she was scrapping the conference altogether.
That decision did not go over well with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom want to relocate the meeting to another border state rather than cancel. The fourth border governor, Rick Perry of Texas, recently made it clear during an interview with Fox News that he would stand by Brewer and not follow Richardson and Schwarzenegger to another location.
For those keeping score at home, two governors have taken their toys and stormed out of the sandbox and two remain. This could be one short summit.
Time out, folks. Let's focus on why we have border conferences in the first place. There are many issues beyond immigration that need to be discussed at events like this, and that's why it's important that the meetings take place. We would hope the Mexican governors would reconsider their position and attend the conference in Phoenix. If they don't, we would hope that Brewer reconsiders her plan to cancel. Now more than ever, we need to do everything we can to foster cooperation on the border. Meetings like this are a good start. And they shouldn't be sidetracked by border politics.
REPRINTED FROM THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE.