PHOENIX - Despite her willingness to confront the president of the United States on a tarmac in front of the nation, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer doesn't have it in her to confront Congress on SB1070, the issue that made her a national Republican hero and propelled her to a full term in office.
You'd think that Brewer, whose political fortunes changed dramatically with the April 2010 signing of the landmark illegal immigration law, would be eager to take up New York Senator Charles Schumer's request that she appear before his subcommittee on immigration, refugees and border security next month.
Schumer, a Democrat, has set the subcommittee meeting date for April 24, a date deliberately chosen to be the day before Brewer will attend the oral arguments on SB1070 before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Touted by Brewer as the last line of Arizona's defense to federal inaction, abandonment and spite, the law's most important provisions haven't been in effect for even a single day.
But Brewer isn't interested in appearing before Schumer or his committee, which includes friendlies to Arizona's cause – if that is what SB1070 is – like Sen. Jon Kyl, Texas' John Cornyn and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the state that took SB1070 a step further last year.
Instead, we have a governor whose spokesman, Matthew Benson, shrugged off the committee hearing as an attempt by Congressional Democrats to pack in more "bloviating" into the debate on illegal immigration.
He's probably correct about that. But, if Brewer was the anywhere, anytime street fighter for the security of the state's borders that she claims to be, she'd take up Schumer on his offer.
The invite – and convenient scheduling of the event – reeks of fear. The injunction on SB1070 wasn't upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously. Brewer has hired one of the nation's top appellate lawyers to defend the law.
It is also difficult to ignore that the current U.S. Supreme Court has a conservative majority, and that they have routinely dealt victories to conservatives over the course of the past several years.
It could be that Brewer and her team are suffering from performance anxiety. Or they might fear a well-prepared Schumer will bombard the public with facts that illegal border crossings are decreasing for reasons of increased security, poor economic incentives, fear of potential crossers, or all three.
But Arizona residents are already aware that Brewer doesn't speak like Winston Churchill. Nor have they ever expected her to do so. And while illegal crossings may occur less frequently, that doesn't necessarily translate to a "safer" border for residents who live on our near the border.
I recently ran into Sue Krentz, whose husband Rob Krentz was murdered on his border ranch in Douglas by a suspected Mexican drug scout in late March of 2010.
Her husband's killer has never been identified or brought to justice, although many Douglas ranchers believe Krentz's murderer is likely dead, as ruthless smugglers would be none too pleased with the amount of attention brought to the border by the killing of Krentz.
But Sue Krentz is still scared. And she is still alone. And Arizona still is a major, if not the main, thoroughfare for literally tons and tons of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine that is smuggled by some of the most dangerous and violent people in the world.
SB1070 isn't a substitute for a secure border, and Arizona's border security isn't linked to the fate of the law. Arizona has a legitimate border security grievance, and if Brewer takes the grievance as seriously as she claims, she'd happily volunteer to take Schumer and Congress to task.