Hours before President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union Address, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer toured the border area Tuesday and concluded that the Arizona-Mexico border remained a “gateway of the drug cartels.”

Brewer said during a news conference in Tucson that she disagreed with the President over immigration security and that she would like to invite him to tour the border to show him the problems created by drug smugglers.

“Mr. President, you need to come down and talk to the ranchers, to the some of the people that are working on the ground. They will tell you differently. But our border is not secure,” she said.

The governor met with Border Patrol union members, National Guard officials and with ranchers in the border area before arriving at Tucson’s Million Air airfield at the airport on a Blackhawk helicopters.

Brewer complained that things had not changed since prior visits. She admitted that illegal border crossings had dwindled and there were less illegal immigrants in the state, but added that cartels are smuggling drugs from Mexico more than ever.

When asked if Tuesday’s tour was timed to coincide with the President’s address, Matthew Benson, Brewer’s spokesman said no, adding the event had been planned for an earlier date with border officials but later had to be rescheduled.  

Asked if the border was ever going to be secure enough for her to focus on other aspects of immigration reform, the governor said yes, but added that for now the border is not secure.

“The fact of the matter is our economy went down and some of them (immigrants) went back across. But I believe truly that when our economy gets better that it will all start up again.”

Contact reporter Joseph Treviño at jtrevino@azstarnet.com or at 807-8029.

Senior Editor, News, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Az.