Obama, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Hold 'Cordial' Meeting on Immigration

Gov. Jan Brewer requested White House meeting to discuss her new state law.

June 3, 2010, 1:45 PM

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2010 -- President Obama and Arizona's Republican Gov. Jan Brewer met face to face for the first time today after weeks of trading jabs in the debate over Arizona's controversial new immigration law.

The White House called the private, 30-minute encounter a "good meeting," during which the president listened to Gov. Brewer's concerns and acknowledged the "understandable frustration" that Americans have about the nation's immigration system.

Brewer, who requested the meeting, said the two had a "very cordial conversation."

"We agreed to try to work together in order to find some solution," Brewer said after the meeting. "We know we're not going to agree on certain issues until other issues are worked out."

Central to the conversation, sources said, was the Arizona law, signed in April, which requires state law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of someone they've stopped, detained or arrested if there is "reasonable suspicion" the individual is in the country illegally.

The measure has sparked national debate, including boycotts of Arizona by political leaders from other states, and drawn sharp criticism from civil rights groups, national police chiefs and President Obama, who's called the law "misguided" and warned it could be applied in a "discriminatory fashion."

Brewer has insisted the law is no different from existing federal guidelines and is being mischaracterized by critics, some of whom have not read it.

"I explained to [President Obama] exactly what my convictions were when I followed that through the legislature," Brewer said, "to make absolutely sure that there was no racial profiling."

Following demands by Brewer and other Arizona leaders that the federal government do more to stem the flow of illegal migrants, drugs and weapons across the border with Mexico, President Obama last week authorized the deployment of up to 1,200 additional National Guard troops to assist border patrol.

Today Brewer said she did not get clear answers from the president on where or when those troops will be distributed. "He assured us that the majority of those resources would be coming to Arizona," she said. But the decision has "yet to be figured out" formally.

Brewer and Arizona Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl have said the federal government is not doing enough along the border and that the embattled state law -- known as SB 1070 -- is one way local leaders can clamp down on the illegal immigration issue themselves.

"We've been putting up with this for eight, ten years, we need [the border secured] now," Brewer said on CNN Tuesday. "We can't tolerate it any longer, America can't tolerate it any longer."

Brewer on Legal Challenge: 'Meet You in Court'

The administration and Congress have been at loggerheads over comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would enhance security along U.S. borders and address the situation of an estimated 10.8 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Arizona is home to an estimated 460,000 of those immigrants.

Meanwhile, the administration is weighing a legal challenge to Arizona's law on grounds it may impede federal authority to set and enforce national immigration policy and could lead to abuses based on race.

Although the law specifically states that law enforcement officers may not consider race, color or national origin as a basis for inquiring about an individual's immigration status, Latinos and civil rights groups worry the potential for racial profiling is still there.

The Justice Department has been reviewing options for a potential legal case and could take several more weeks before sending recommendations to the White House for consideration.

Brewer told reporters that she and Obama did not discuss details of any pending lawsuit, but said earlier this week that she wouldn't be concerned with any potential challenge to the law.

"I would say 'meet you in court,'" she said on CNN when asked about her reaction to the administration's challenge. "I have a pretty good record of winning in court."

Polls show that a majority of Americans support the Arizona law, and at least a dozen states are considering similar measures.

In a Pew Research Center pool released last month, 59 percent of Americans said they support Arizona's law, and 67 percent said they support allowing police to detain anyone who cannot provide their legal status. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 64 percent of Americans approve of the law.

The law is set to take effect in Arizona July 29 barring any legal challenges.

ABC News' Jake Tapper, Huma Khan, and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.