Martinez dines at White House

Working meal with other governors and officials focuses on border issues


President Donald Trump offered up a dark vision of the country's southern border during dinner with Gov. Susana Martinez and other Republican governors at the White House on Monday.

"We're going to be discussing the deadly ravages of drugs, gangs and crime that's pouring across our border," Trump said in televised remarks at the outset of a working meal with several governors and Cabinet officials.

The visit reflected the complicated relationship Martinez has had with Trump. She at times has expressed frustration with his rhetoric on immigration but has struck a more conciliatory tone -- particularly since he took office.

The president took the occasion to thank Martinez and other governors for mobilizing National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.

"They've all been extremely helpful," he said.

New Mexico has dispatched 60 troops to the southern border.

Martinez in turn raised concerns about security.

"As a nation of immigrants, that's what we are, we embrace it. We honor that," she said. "However, we also have to respect that we are a nation of laws."

The governor also praised Trump for showing what she described as compassion for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, though Trump set in motion the process to end the protections granted to them under President Barack Obama.

The president's depiction of crime flowing across the border is the sort of rhetoric that has miffed some local leaders and might at one time have drawn a rebuke from New Mexico's governor, too.

In a televised debate broadcast on KOAT-TV Sunday night, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Las Cruces state Sen. Joseph Cervantes criticized the president's approach to the border and touted the southern end of the state as having some of the safest communities in New Mexico.

After Trump called for sending troops to the border, Martinez's former secretary of economic development, Jon Barela, lamented on Twitter: "While almost everyone agrees about the need for physical security at the border, the president's action again reinforces the negative stereotype that the border, especially this borderplex region, is a lawless, dangerous frontier."

Martinez had been critical of Trump's proposal to build a wall on the border and his promise to make Mexico pay for it, telling Republican donors in 2016 that the plan was unrealistic and irresponsible, according to the Washington Post.

And before the 2016 election, she described Trump as having displayed "a pattern of disturbing conduct and offensive rhetoric that raises serious questions about his fitness to be president."

Trump had also blasted Martinez during a campaign stop in Albuquerque that year.

But what a difference a couple of years make.

According to news reports, the governors of Arizona, South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi were also at the table Monday. They were joined by White House chief of staff John Kelly, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, formerly the governor of Texas, and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Martinez has been out of the state since Wednesday. Her office said she met with White House officials during a visit to Washington, D.C., last week and went on to New York City before returning to the nation's capital Monday. She is scheduled to head to New York again for meetings with the Republican Governors Association and returns to New Mexico on Wednesday.

Per the state constitution, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez acts as governor when Martinez is out of the state.