Congressman Xavier Becerra – the son of working-class immigrants from Jalisco, México – talked about growing up in a one-bedroom household in Sacramento with three sisters and later answered some tough questions during a special hearing Tuesday (Jan. 10) on his nomination as state Attorney General.
“I am blessed, ready and optimistic,” said Becerra during the Assembly Special Committee on the Office of the Attorney General.
In a standing-room only Capitol room, Becerra touched on his roots, upbringing and experience in public service that make him well-suited to take on the job of California’s chief law enforcement officer.
“I hope that at some point, you will have the chance to meet my parents because you will understand immediately who I am. They gave me the values that make me stand before you today,” said Becerra, 58.
The committee, led by co-chairs Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Ángeles and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, as well as seven other members of the Legislature, spoke about the committee’s work.
“This committee is not only historic but may well establish a procedure and precedent that will be used in the future. This is a time when our nation is facing dramatic change. At the national level, it is important that California takes a leadership position in the politics of inclusion,” said Jones-Sawyer.
He continued: “We, in California, face a cold-hard reality. Unprecedented uncertainty and inconceivable and inconceivably, we face a looming, hard, ferocious and hard-fought legal war with bloodshed stretching from the Golden State to Washington. The reason: (President-elect Donald J.) Trump. We need an attorney general that can stand up for all Californians and all Americans to defend their civil rights.”
Stone issued a similar sentiment.
“California will have to show the country how to govern,” he said.
Gov. Jerry Brown defended the nomination of Becerra during the morning hearing. He cited personally knowing a majority of California’s former attorney generals dating back to the second World War and said Becerra cannot be compared.
“I would venture to say he is better, but I won’t. He has the intellect, experience and character that make him stand out above the rest. I looked at over a dozen names when I was considering a nomination for this post, but Becerra’s academic record of excellence is beyond measure,” said Brown.
Becerra has ran for public office a dozen times, graduated from Stanford Law School and has championed important causes for California. He would be the first Latino to serve as California Attorney General if confirmed.
“I am proud to recommend him and I can guarantee you that he is well-vetted,” said Brown.
Becerra answered a range of questions on gun laws, minimum wage, civil rights, affordable housing, health care, racial profiling, public safety, sanctuary cities, immigrant and LGBTQ rights, human trafficking, education and the environment.
Becerra replied to each question that he would “use the law to prevent California from going backwards” and reiterated how the Golden State is typically 5-10 years ahead of the country in terms of its laws and progressive stance on issues.
“It is my job and duty to represent our interests and to advance them. I am not looking to go backwards,” said Becerra.
Becerra was asked how he would protect legislation like AB 953, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, in preventing racial profiling by police officers.
“I was once pulled over when I was in high school. The officer never told me why and he never cited me. But, oddly, I was in a car with three other Latinos. There was no real reason on why I was pulled over, but I knew that it was because I was a man of color,” said Becerra.
Becerra said there must be a balance between ensuring police officers are acting in a matter of public safety and not discrimination. He also explained the importance of having law enforcement agencies reach out to communities, especially those of color so there is no fear, and vice a versa so communities can understand the difficult task and danger faced by law enforcement officials on a day-to-day basis.
As attorney general, Becerra promised to counter the actions of Trump’s administration toward minimizing or diminishing the progress that California has made as far as immigrant, LGBTQ and other rights.
“Anything that California is doing that is not dependent on federal authority, I am certain we can very easily fight it, and we will,” said Becerra.
Becerra said he will represent every single Californian and plans to steer away from partisan politics. His life, professional and personal experiences and biases will be carried throughout his tenure as attorney general.
“I have been a minority for 18 of my 24 years in Congress and I have been a minority my whole life,” said Becerra. “I understand the issues in this state and I can relate to the issues on the minds of most Californians. My job is to be a voice and a representative for all.”
The committee voted 6-3 to recommend that the full Assembly confirm Becerra.
“I was very impressed with the depth and thoughtfulness of Congressman Becerra’s answers to questions posed by the Committee and in his handling of questions in our confirmation hearing,” said Stone. “At this time in California, there is no better person for the job as Attorney General.”
Jones-Sawyer issued a similar statement after the hearing.
“Today, Congressman Becerra adeptly answered tough questions necessary for him to prove to Californians that he has the courage, the valor, the grit and fortitude, as well as the qualifications necessary to be the legal voice of every Californian. Today he proved that he’s not only battle-tested, but ready for war on behalf of the Golden State.”
Four former attorney generals have authored letters of support for Becerra’s nomination, including Sen. Kamala Harris, John Van de Kamp, William Lockyer and Dan Lungren.
Becerra has also received letters of support from the California Congressional Delegation, the American Civil Liberties Union, the SEIU and Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The Assembly is scheduled to vote on Becerra’s confirmation on Friday (Jan. 13) during a 9 a.m. regular floor session.