Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, grew up in Sacramento, the son of Mexican immigrants.
By Jeremy B. White
December 1, 2016 – 9:00 AM
Gov. Jerry Brown has tabbed Rep. Xavier Becerra to serve as California’s interim attorney general, selecting the Los Angeles Democrat to fill a vacancy opened by the imminent departure of outgoing Attorney General Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate.
Assuming he wins confirmation by the Legislature – a strong possibility, given the 12-term Democrat’s role as a mainstay of Democratic and Los Angeles politics – Becerra would serve as California’s top law enforcement official through 2018, with an opportunity to serve for another eight years if he runs for the office. He would be California’s first Latino attorney general.
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 25, 2015, to discuss the budget. Andrew Harnik AP
At a time when the election of President Donald Trump has alarmed California Democrats and thrown into question the state’s liberal stances on issues like climate change and immigration, Brown’s choice of a liberal stalwart like Becerra reaffirmed the state’s future role as a pocket of resistance.
“Xavier has been an outstanding public servant – in the State Legislature, the U.S. Congress and as a deputy attorney general,” Brown said in an emailed statement. “I’m confident he will be a champion for all Californians and help our state aggressively combat climate change.”
Referring to himself as a “the son of immigrants” who is motivated to “fight for working families like the one I grew up in,” Becerra said in a statement that had accepted Brown’s offer and summarized his liberal bona fides.
“I have been part of some of the greatest debates confronting our nation, from opposing the Iraq war, to fighting to help Americans recover from the Great Recession, to launching the bipartisan immigration talks and helping write our nation’s health security law,” Becerra said, adding that “California right now is ahead of the country when it comes to clean energy, commonsense treatment of immigrants, real health security and so much more.”
He reiterated those points in a conference call with reporters, saying he would be “vigorous in defense of what we’ve done” to expand clean energy, protect parts of the federal healthcare law that Republicans seek to dismantle and preserve efforts toward “criminal justice reform” that seek to protect “young men of color.”
“We have policies in place that probably won’t pass at the federal level for another five, 10, 15 years,” Becerra said. “If you want to take on a forward-leaning state that is prepared to defend its rights and interests, then come at us.”
And in the face of Trump’s vow to deport millions of immigrants with criminal records, Becerra appeared to back California’s efforts to prevent removal of unauthorized immigrants who pose no threat to public safety.
“No one who goes to a grocery store to shop should believe the state of California is going to do anything to keep them from going home to see their kids if they’re just being regular, hard-working individuals,” Becerra said. “You’re talking to the son of immigrants, and I’m going to do everything I can do give that child of immigrant parents every chance I had.”
Topsharply critical of what he calls Sacramento’s lenient approach to crime, has also declared a run.
Days before Brown announced Becerra’s appointment, the Jones campaign issued a press release that read like a pre-emptive defense against whomever Brown chose. It noted he had already won statewide office, had won the endorsements of local party officials and had established his fundraising prowess.
A member of the House of Representatives since 1992, Becerra already has some experience in the California attorney general’s office. He worked as a deputy attorney general from 1987 to 1990 before winning a spot in the state Assembly. He has a law degree from Stanford University and said he will have to renew his status as an active California lawyer with the California State Bar.
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