Jan Brewer Showcases Empty Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric in Gubernatorial Debate

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer

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.

seth hoy

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.
Seth Hoy

Republished with permission from Immigration Impact.


  1. says

    I thought after the Civil Rights Movement that this type of ethnic hatred was going to taper off–it hasn’t and in many ways is worse. Mississippi is starting to look Progressive. Perhaps if there wasn’t employment for those crossing the border, the problem would slow if not end. Cheap labor is something that Arizona isn’t being honest about. Even in Arizona people need to eat, sleep and find shelter. It takes money even to live in a hovel. Good story that reveals tha absolute hypocrisy of Arizona’s leadership.

  2. Benito says

    In the last four months Jan Brewer has been caught lying, three times and counting.

    The comments made on June 16, 2010, and June 27, 2010, clearly indicates that the Brewer says that immigrants are beheading people in the United States desert. She first ran away from the question and the press when confronted with the question. She finally when to FOX/ FAKE News to recant her lie.

    When Brewer was confronted with the fact the two of her top Advisors (Paul Senseman, Chuck Coughlin) are lobbyist for “Private Prisons” giant CCA she first ran away from the question and the press.

    In an attempt to gain sympathy, she first said her father had died in Germany fighting the Nazi in World War II (which ended 1945) but of course we find out the truth that her father was never in Germany and died in California in 1955. Do you see a trend here?

    Brewer signed into law SB 1070 Bill (Did she even read it?), lied about the crime rates in AZ (even Janet Napolitano knows that all crimes rates went down), and now we find out that she is in the pockets of PRIVATE PRISONS who stand to benefit with the increase Federal jailing, and thus they will pay her back, I wonder if it has to do anything about the fact that her son was transferred to a brand new prison, he was convicted for rape and sexual assault, I guess the fruit does not fall far the tree.

    “Private Prisons Lie”

    “AZ Crime Rates”

    “Father Lie”

  3. NY Hud says


    “Governor Brewer… 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.”

    Good points Seth, but people like Brewer win elections because our side is not being smart about immigration. By “immigration reform” people like you mean we should let more Mexicans come into the US, and give amnesty to those who have already come here illegally.

    That’s an untenable, non-progressive position, and it’s exactly why moderates and the right wing laugh at our liberal naiveté. We simply can’t take care of the millions of people in the world who would like to live in the US. We may want to, because we’re nice people and we feel for them, but we simply can’t afford to.

    The more we give amnesty (and we’ve already given it quite a few times in the past), the more illegal aliens we attract. Worse, the more we take care of Mexico’s poor, the more the super rich in both Mexico and the US get away with abusing Mexico’s poor and creating more of a problem with poverty both in Mexico and here.

    By repeatedly cleaning up the mess for them, we’re enabling the rich to expand their disproportionate separation from the masses of poor in Mexico. We’re exacerbating the problem. If progressives would start pushing for better living standards for Mexico’s poor, and a more just economy in Mexico, if we demanded Mexico adopt child labor laws and minimum pay, social security, workers compensation and OSHA safety standards, we could give a “hand up” to those millions on the lower end of the economic scale. We’d be bringing up to higher standards so they’d develop a middle class instead of just a have vs have-not social structure.

    Let’s be smart and stop pushing for silly “immigration reform” that serves to downgrade our own working and middle classes, and instead, demand NAFTA and other agreements support social change that would benefit the millions of poor in Mexico. We need to stop being naïve liberals, because all that does is hand political power to right wing politicians.

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