Hours before President Obama's State of the Union address, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer toured the border area Tuesday and concluded the region remains a "gateway of the drug cartels."

Brewer said during a news conference in Tucson that she disagreed with the president over immigration issues 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 some of the people that are working on the ground," Brewer said, adding they would tell Obama "our border is not secure."

The governor met with Border Patrol union members, National Guard officials and with ranchers in the border area before arriving at the Million Air Tucson at the Tucson airport on a Black Hawk helicopter.

Brewer acknowledged that illegal border crossings have dwindled and there were fewer 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."

On StarNet: Find extensive coverage of immigration issues at azstarnet.com/border

Panel says officials need to agree on the definition of what a secure border is. / A5

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