Border Conference in Jeopardy After Brewer-Mexico Immigration Dispute

A border-state governors conference may be the latest casualty of the Arizona immigration law.

The conference is supposed to be an annual coming-together for governors of states on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was set to host the September conference this year in Phoenix -- but after all six Mexican border governors threatened to boycott it over the state's immigration law, Brewer announced she was canceling the whole thing.

"I find no appropriate alternative to cancellation," she said in a letter to the governors at the end of June. "Naturally I am disappointed by your decision, as I sincerely believe the gathering of the governors in Arizona would have presented a great platform to initiate dialogue about the legislation and other topics of great importance to the border region."

That doesn't mean the conference is kaput. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is still trying to revive the meeting, offering to find a new host city.

"Gov. Brewer doesn't have the authority to cancel the Border Governors Conference," said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesperson for Richardson. "She may not want to host it for political reasons, but that's not a reason to sidestep the tough issues that border governors must address, including migration and border violence.Gov. Richardson will look for alternative sites to host the conference, with or without Arizona's participation."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry's office said Wednesday night he is open to holding the conference elsewhere.

"Governor Perry is happy to meet with his fellow border governors anytime to discuss issues from border security to hurricanes to trade and commerce," spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said. "It would be unfortunate if there is no conference but not holding a meeting wouldn't mean that we won't continue working with our fellow border governors."

Brewer has posted her cancellation notice on the front page of the website for the 2010 Border Governors Conference. In it, she said the Arizona legislation has been "misunderstood and misinterpreted," and continued to stress the "importance" of the Arizona-Mexico relationship. She invited the Mexico officials to meet with her administration in Arizona to discuss the law and "the myths that have been created about what the law requires or allows."

The law makes illegal immigration a state crime and requires local officers to question anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant on their residency status. The policy is set to go into effect at the end of the month, but the Obama administration on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to permanently block it -- arguing that Arizona cannot set immigration policy in the federal government's place.

The governors conference is hardly the first Arizona-based meeting the immigration law has thrown into question. The Department of Education recently moved a conference out of the state after the Mexico government protested.

Several other groups have announced they will not hold meetings or conferences in the state in protest of the immigration law, while some city governments have banned employees from traveling there on government business.