While being grilled by co-host Ann Curry on Wednesday's NBC Today on Arizona's illegal immigration law causing racial discrimination, Governor Jan Brewer hit back and declared: "I believe truly that the media and others have tried to throw out that race card to shut down the debate. It's not about that. It's about illegal immigration." [Audio available here]
Earlier, Curry fretted: "Now what would justify such a law that required people, essentially, to carry papers, identification, something that proved that they're American citizens?" Brewer replied: "...it's under reasonable suspicion, it's no different than what law enforcement actually does today....So it's a simple issue, and the press, the liberal media tried to blow that completely totally out of perspective." [View video after the jump]
Curry pressed Brewer on whether police in Arizona would racially profile: "You say the people in Arizona are not racist or bigots. And so the question has been raised, why wouldn't an officer...not take into account the color of someone's skin in weighing whether or not to believe that someone might be an immigrant, an illegal immigrant?...wouldn't they weigh in the color of a person's skin in deciding whether or not that person?"
Here is a full transcript of the November 2 interview:
ANN CURRY: Illegal immigration is one of the hot button issues in the presidential campaign and the state of Arizona is right in the middle of that debate. More than a year after its Republican governor signed a controversial illegal immigration bill into law. Well now, Governor Jan Brewer has written a book about her struggle called "Scorpions for Breakfast: My Fight Against Special Interests, Liberal Media, and Cynical Politicos to Secure America's Border." Governor Brewer, good morning to you.
JAN BREWER: Good morning to you, Ann.
CURRY: First, let me ask you about what you wrote about in this book about Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. You describe her as a good friend despite your political differences. As such, she appears to be making a remarkable recovery.
BREWER: She does.
CURRY: Would you like to see her run for re-election?
BREWER: I would like to see what Gabby do whatever she can do and what she wants to do. She's a terrific gal, she's a wonderful elected official in Arizona, and more than that, she's been terrific for Arizona in the United States Congress. So I certainly hope that she can do whatever she chooses to do.
CURRY: Given all that she's endured, I imagine for a lot of people and maybe even for you, there would be sort of a sweet smile if you see her do something like that.
BREWER: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. She's a terrific – she really is terrific and it was such a tragic thing that happened down in Tucson. Our hearts were just broken for all, everybody that was murdered and injured down there. It was just a terrible day.
CURRY: You also write in this book, as we just mentioned, a lot about illegal immigration.
BREWER: I do.
CURRY: Why would you want to write a book about your experiences during this huge controversy that started to rage after the signing of this bill?
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Scorpions for Breakfast"; Controversial Battle to Secure America's Border]
BREWER: Well, it was really important to me that I was able to put down what I believe was the truth about what we were doing in Arizona, and what we were more or less forced to do because the federal government wouldn't do their job. We are the gateway for illegal immigration into America, bottom line is, is that we can't afford it, we can't tolerate it, and we are the recipient of a lot of criminal acts. And the bottom line is, if the federal government won't protect our borders then Arizona will.
CURRY: You know, let's be very specific about what the bill said. The bill you signed, which is still being challenged in court, would let law enforcement check the immigration status of a suspected illegal immigrant if stopped during a lawful traffic stop, detention, or arrest. And it would require that suspected illegal immigrants show proof that they're here legally. Now what would justify such a law that required people, essentially, to carry papers, identification, something that proved that they're American citizens?
BREWER: Well, first of all, let me just say, Ann, that, you know, it's under reasonable suspicion, it's no different than what law enforcement actually does today. And you know, if you're here in our country or if you're in any other country, it's your responsibility to carry identification with you. So it's a simple issue, and the press, the liberal media tried to blow that completely totally out of perspective.
So I try to talk about that in my book, I'm trying to explain to people, that the people in Arizona are not racist, they are not bigots. We have tried to do the best that we can given the circumstances that we have been given. They closed down the borders in California, they closed down the borders in Texas, and they funneled everybody through Arizona. And we just can't expect our citizens to continue to pay the price. It's costing us $1.6 billion out of an $8 billion budget a year to take care of that issue.
CURRY: You say the people in Arizona are not racist or bigots. And so the question has been raised, why wouldn't an officer, if he's looking under these words, if he's thinking about a suspected illegal immigrant, are you saying that he would not, he or she would not take into account the color of someone's skin in weighing whether or not to believe that someone might be an immigrant, an illegal immigrant?
BREWER: Well, and in the law, it says, you know, it has to be under reasonable suspicion, meaning they have to have already committed something, another crime or illegal-
CURRY: Or be suspected of, I mean they're not necessarily committed, they may have had a-
BREWER: Of course, they're law enforcement. They've been trained. They know what to look for. But it's reasonable suspicion. You can't just walk up to somebody and arrest anybody. And when I signed this bill-
CURRY: But wouldn't they weigh in the color of a person's skin in deciding whether or not that person?
CURRY: Why wouldn't they?
BREWER: Why would they? I mean, we have grown up in the southwest, we have grown up – these are our friends, these are our neighbors, they're part of our families, it's just ridiculous and it's – you know what? I believe truly that the media and others have tried to throw out that race card to shut down the debate. It's not about that. It's about illegal immigration. It's about the spillover from Mexico and we're just asking the federal government to do their job.
And when I signed Senate Bill 1070, I wanted to make absolutely sure that it would work, that it would be constitutional, and nobody's civil rights would be offended. That was my main goal and that's why I wrote the book "Scorpions for Breakfast," I want to tell the truth. And I hope everybody that reads it, that they get that story and they understand we are just simply trying to do the job the federal government won't do. And if the federal government doesn't want to do it, well then they ought to change their laws.
CURRY: What do you say to the Obama administration, that has put out this information that under President Obama more people have been deported for illegal immigration status than under any other president since Eisenhower?
BREWER: Well, I say that's good, if that's factual and if that's true. The General Accounting Office, the GAO, says 55% of our border is not secured, and only 15% of those illegals that are coming across are arrested. That's not a secure border. That's not doing your job.
CURRY: We know you're feisty, Governor Jan Brewer, and in this book you're a fighter. Thank you so much...
BREWER: Thank you.
CURRY: ...for speaking to us, and really it's been a pleasure.
BREWER: Thank you.
CURRY: The book is called "Scorpions for Breakfast."