Newly elected California Attorney General (AG) Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, recently spoke with San Francisco attorneys about his legal battles against the Trump administration.
At the Bar Association of San Francisco, Becerra fielded questions from California Appellate Law Group chairman Ben Feuer on October 25. Becerra was then the incumbent in his November 6 AG’s race against Republican Steven Bailey.
Becerra has sued the Trump administration 44 times. He and Feuer discussed Becerra’s advocacy for the environment, the Affordable Care Act, and gun control; and his opposition to several Trump measures, including the travel ban and family separations at U.S.-Mexico borders.
“2018 is not 1820,” Becerra said, offering hope that U.S. politics will not slide backward.
Becerra is a first-generation American born of Mexican immigrants. His dad picked up crops and worked construction; and despite the best efforts of his “viciously smart” mom, she could never get beyond clerical assignments, where she typed more than 115 words per minute. Becerra said his background informs every decision he makes in office.
Becerra thought his family was middle class until he arrived at Stanford Law School as an incoming student. This top-tier legal education lent Becerra the clout needed to confront scammers who’d taken $3,000.00 from his parents.
“Three thousand dollars for people who don’t brush elbows with professionals—that’s a lot of money,” Becerra said. “And (scam victims) have winning cases, if they know where to go.”
Becerra listed some highlights from his first AG term.
“We’re the lead attorney on defending the Affordable Care Act—not just for California, but for everyone. The U.S. Department of Justice bailed out on that.” Becerra’s office has squared off against Texas in federal court, defending the Affordable Care Act on the nation’s behalf.
They filed the case that got 187,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) renewals reinstated. They successfully opposed Trump’s ban of transgender people in the military. They ensured that women across the country can still obtain birth control at a reasonable cost.
Becerra’s office vehemently opposed Trump’s proposal to lower greenhouse gas emission standards for 2021-2026 vehicles, and to weaken fuel efficiency standards in violation of the Clean Car Act.
Becerra spoke of his weapon retrieval program. “When you take weapons out of the hands of 18,000 people,” he said, “you’ve probably saved at least one life.”
Of his efforts to have California, not the federal government, decide how to provide for California’s public safety, Becerra said, “I would vigorously challenge anyone who says we’re using the 10th Amendment in any way like the Southern states did in the ‘50s and ‘60s. We’re using (the Amendment) to include people; they used it to exclude people.”
His office is also fighting for universal health care coverage and net neutrality, and they are suing the federal government over its decision to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Becerra commented on the Central American migrants trying to emigrate into the U.S. by caravan. “All those 7,000 people should be met by the law. Fleeing another country does not give you a right to enter this one. I don’t think they should be met by the Army, but they should be met with the law.”
But, he said, Trump’s administration “should have to follow the laws they are fighting to enforce.”
According to Becerra, the U.S. has denied many privileges to his parents, both U.S. citizens. Despite this, he said, “I have never seen them speak ill of this country.”
This statement came just two weeks before Becerra, leading 18 attorneys general, submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), voicing concern over proposed regulations that would cut protections for children held in immigrant detention facilities.
“We have kicked butt against the federal government on immigration,” Becerra said, “because we have forty million people (in California) depending on us.”
And though the U.S. is a repeat opponent of his office these days, Becerra said of this country, “I still can’t find a better place.”
About the author:
Katie Burke owns Burke Family Law in San Francisco. Katie has practiced family law in San Francisco for thirteen years, representing individuals in their divorce, child custody, and financial division matters. She also helps people secure domestic violence restraining orders; drafts and reviews premarital agreements, post-marital agreements, and cohabitation agreements; and handles probate guardianships and civil and family law appeals.