Born on January 26, 1958 in Sacramento, California, Xavier Becerra earned a BA in economics from Stanford University in 1980 and a JD from Stanford Law School in 1984. During his time at Stanford, he was a member of the radical Chicano organization MEChA. After completing his education, Becerra served as a staff attorney for the Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts (1984-85); a staffer for California state senator Art Torres (1986); deputy attorney general for the State of California (1987-90); and a Democratic member of the California State Assembly (1990-92). Becerra was first voted into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, representing California’s 30th Congressional District. He was re-elected every two years thereafter—up to, and including, 2016, though his district was renumbered as the 31st in 2003 and the 34th in 2013. (His 1996 campaign was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America.) Becerra was also a member of the the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In October 2002 Becerra supported the Chicano Coalition for Peace and Social Justice, a group that had been infiltrated by the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). In 2005 he joined Raul Grijalva and Luis Gutierrez in backing the efforts of Latinos for Peace, an anti-Iraq War front group for the CPUSA. That same year, Becerra co-sponsored Rep. John Conyers‘s HR 676, a bill calling for the creation of a government-run, “single-payer” healthcare system.
In August 2008 Becerra was named as a member of the Barack Obama presidential campaign’s National Latino Advisory Council, along with such notables as Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Eliseo Medina, Linda Sanchez, Hilda Solis, and Nydia Velazquez.
When the House of Representatives voted by a 345-75 margin to defund the notoriously corrupt community organization ACORN in September 2009, Becerra was one of the 75—all Democrats—who voted to continue funding the group.
In Febrary 2010, Rep. Becerra dispatched one of his staffers, Henry Truong, to conduct a three-day “fact-finding trip in Venezuela and other Latin American countries with the mission of fostering dialogue and improving U.S. policy and bilateral relations.” The trip’s $2,219.70 price tag was covered by a grant from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, an organization with ties to the Institute for Policy Studies.
In June 2010 Becerra spoke at “America’s Future Now!”—an annual conference hosted by the Campaign for America’s Future and the the Institute for Policy Studies.
In August 2010 Becerra met with a delegation from the the Muslim Public Affairs Council, including the organization’s executive director, Salam Al-Marayati. Becerra began the meeting by professing his keen interest in Muslim concerns vis-à-vis the recent controversy related to the proposed construction of “Cordoba House” (a.k.a. “Park 51”)—a 13-story, $100 million mosque/Islamic Center just 600 feet from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.
Becerra was one of 15 congressional co-sponsors of the America Votes Act of 2012, which sought—on the twin premises that Voter ID laws are racist and voter fraud is exceedingly rare—to allow voters to sign an affidavit attesting to their identity if they lacked the identification documents required at their polling place. Among the other sponsors of this bill were Reps. Mike Honda, Emanuel Cleaver, Gwen Moore, G.K. Butterfield, James Moran, Gregory Meeks, Donna Edwards, Bob Filner, Elijah Cummings, John Lewis, and Sam Farr.
In early 2013, Becerra was one of a number of prominent leftists who urged President Obama to award, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a Saul Alinsky-trained radical who mentored both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
In July 2015 Becerra condemned House Republican legislation proposing to cut off federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities” that refused to help federal authorities enforce U.S. immigration laws. He asserted that the Republican bill “simply denies the cities and towns their dollars to hire police officers while attacking immigrant communities.”
Regarding a horrific July 1, 2015 incident where a 32-year-old San Francisco woman was murdered by an illegal alien who had been previously deported five times, Becerra denied that the city’s sanctuary policies had contributed in any way to the victim’s death. “I don’t believe having a sanctuary designation stops us from following the due course of the law to arrest or detain or deport an individual who doesn’t have the right to be in the country,” he said. “So I don’t believe we should be trying to ascribe blame based on a designation as a sanctuary city. Congress has a huge role to play. The first and foremost thing we can do is finally fix these broken imagination laws so we can get past this kind of stuff.”
After California Attorney General Kamala Harris was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2016, Governor Jerry Brown chose Becerra to replace Harris as the state’s A.G. He was sworn in to that office on January 24, 2017.
In late 2016/early 2017, it was learned that Information Technology specialist Imran Awan — who had done IT work for numerous Democrats and was now suspected of being a Pakistani spy — had routed sensitive data from House Democrat computers to a secret server connected to the House Democratic Caucus, an organization chaired by Becerra. When police requested a copy of that server in early 2017, Becerra provided them with a fake server.
In a December 2017 press conference, Becerra said the following about the many young illegal aliens — commonly dubbed “Dreamers” — who fit the guidelines of DREAM Act legislation proposing amnesty and a path-to-citizenship for those aliens: “I suspect in the revolutionary days the founders were looking for people like them [Dreamers] to join their fight. They’re — I might get deleted here — badass. There are some politicians who need a little bit of a spine like they have.”
In response to rumors of impending Immigration & Custom Enforcement raids slated for California, Becerra held a press conference on January 18, 2018 in which he reminded Californians about the recently enacted Immigration Worker Protection Act, a state law that: (a) required employers to ask immigration officials for a warrant before permitting them to enter work sites, and (b) barred employers from sharing confidential employee information without a subpoena. Warning that employers who violated the new law would face fines of up to $10,000, and that ignorance of the law would not be accepted as an excuse, Becerra said: “It’s important … to let people know—more specifically today, employers—that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees or access to their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws, they subject themselves to actions by my office. We will prosecute those who violate the law.”
After Senator Dick Durbin told the media in January 2018 that President Trump, in a closed-door meeting on immigration policy, had referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations as “shithole countries,” Becerra said: “In every respect what [Trump] is showing us is that he is a racist.” Though Trump denied having made the remark claimed by Durbin, Becerra accused the president of “mental instability, mendacity, [and] now bigotry.”
By October 2018, Becerra had filed 44 lawsuits against the Trump administration on matters related to immigration, healthcare, energy, and the environment. More than 20 of those were suits designed to prevent Trump from terminating Obama-era energy and environment policies — including one suit that cited environmental concerns as a justification for barring the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In November 2018, Becerra said he was considering the possibility of suing the Trump administration for using tear gas and other forceful measures to repel a large group of Central American migrants who had recently tried to storm across America’s southern border illegally.
In April 2019, Becerra called Thursday for illegal migration to be decriminalized, saying that those crossing the southern border were “not criminals.” “They haven’t committed a crime against someone, and they are not acting violently or in a way that’s harmful to people,” he told the Huffington Post. “And I would argue they are not harming people indirectly either.” “If you call them criminals, it’s a lot easier to get people to turn against them than if you call them undocumented immigrants,” Becerra added.
In June 2020 — while numerous American cities were being overrun by riots protesting the recent death of a black man named George Floyd in an encounter with a white police officer — Becerra said: “We cannot afford to ignore the realities faced by black Americans and people of color in this nation and in our state … We have been called to reckon with the systemic failures that cause and allow police misconduct to perpetuate.” To address the matter, Becerra proposed: (a) the passage of legislation to decertify and blacklist police officers guilty of serious misconduct; (b) legislation to change the role of police officers in responding to cases involving homeless or mentally ill people; (c) a ban on chokeholds and other neck restraints; (d) a ban on the use of pepper spray against young people in juvenile detention; (e) a law stipulating that deadly force could be used only as a last resort.
On December 7, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Becerra for the post of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — the department responsible for implementing federal health policy across the United States. He was confirmed by the Senate on March 18, 2021, by a margin of 50-49, with all Democrats present and one Republican, Susan Collins, voting in favor.
Becerra’s Views Regarding Religious Liberty & Abortion
In October 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Justice Department announced that, pursuant to President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13798, they were issuing “guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments regarding religious liberty protections in federal law.” Key components of the new guidance policy included recognition of the fact that:
But Xavier Becerra, during his California Attorney General confirmation hearings in January 2017, made clear his belief that — contrary to the Trump administration’s position — “the protection for religion is for the individual” only, and not for charitable religious organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or for businesses with a strong religious foundation like Hobby Lobby. “I think it is important to distinguish between protections that you are affording to the individual to exercise his or her religion freely,” Becerra explained, “versus protections you are giving to some institution or entity who is essentially bootstrapping the First Amendment protections on behalf of somebody else.”
Becerra also called for the reinstatement of an Obama-era healthcare regulation dating back to August 1, 2011 – nearly 17 months after the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had been signed into law – when then-Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced a new mandate that required all Obamacare-compliant insurance plans to cover at least one form of female birth control, including sterilization. But this mandate was unacceptable to many individuals and businesses whose moral and religious beliefs did not permit them to fund or participate in such insurance plans. Such was the case with Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts store chain owned by devout Christians who are openly dedicated to “honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.” Thus, Hobby Lobby asked HHS if, because of its religious convictions, it could be exempt from the Obamacare mandate. The Little Sisters of the Poor, an organization of Catholic nuns who care for elderly poor people, likewise sought an exemption from the mandate.
When President Trump in 2017, by means of an executive order, expanded the ability of healthcare providers and insurers to claim religious and moral exemptions to Obamacare’s mandate that employers offer their workers health-insurance plans covering such things as contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures, Becerra quickly filed suit against the administration. In Becerra’s view, it was likewise unreasonable and discriminatory for an organization like the Little Sisters of the Poor to be exempt from having to purchase such health-insurance plans. Said Becerra at the time: “These anti-women’s health regulations prove once again that the Trump Administration is willing to trample on people’s rights.” Under Becerra’s leadership, the state of California spent the next several years engaged in a legal battle with the Little Sisters of the Poor.
In 2020, Becerra boasted he and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey were co-leading a movement where 21 attorneys general had signed on to an amicus brief in support of efforts by Pennsylvania and New Jersey to have the aforementioned Trump administration exemptions to the Obamacare mandate repealed.
When pro-life activists in California leaked undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the prices for which fetal tissue and dismembered body parts from aborted babies could be sold, Becerra prosecuted them.
Becerra also advocated for a law that would require crisis pregnancy centers that consider abortion antithetical to their mission, to post information advertising and promoting abortion referral services. Denise Harle, senior counsel for the pro-life Christian nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom, notes that “Alliance Defending Freedom had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to stop Becerra from forcing religious pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise for abortions.”
According to Justin Butterfield, deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit group that assists individuals and organizations “in legal battles over religious freedom and First-Amendment issues”: “As California’s Attorney General, Xavier Becerra repeatedly attacked long-held religious freedom protections for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals and labeled federal protections that protect health care professionals from being coerced into performing abortions against their will as ‘offensive’ and ‘dangerous.’”
During his Senate confirmation hearing for the post of HHS Secretary on February 23, 2021, Becerra would not say why, during his tenure in the House of Representatives, he had voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. For example, Senator Mitt Romney asked him: “You voted against a ban on partial-birth abortion. Why?” Becerra replied: “I have worked, as I have mentioned, for decades trying to protect the health of men and women, young and old, and as attorney general, my job has been to follow the law and make sure others are following the law. I will tell you that when it come[s] to these issues, I understand that we may not always agree on where to go, but I think we can find some common ground.”
In the same Senate confirmation hearing, Becerra at one point said: “I have never sued any nuns. I have taken on the federal government, but I’ve never sued any affiliation of nuns. My actions have always been directed at federal agencies because they have been trying to do things that are contrary to the law.”
Later on, Republican Senator Ben Sasse said to Becerra: “Mr. Becerra, you said a while ago that you had never sued the nuns — which is a pretty interesting way of reframing your bullying. You had actually sued the Government, who had given an exemption to the nuns. Can you explain to us what the Little Sisters of the Poor were doing wrong?”
Becerra replied evasively: “So, Senator, as I tried to explain, my actions were against the federal government. The Little Sisters of the Poor, we never alleged that the Little Sisters of the Poor did anything. Our problem was that the federal government was not abiding by the law as we saw it, and what we did is we took action against the federal government so California could administer its program to make sure that the Affordable Care Act continued.”
Sasse characterized Becerra’s response as a “nonsense” answer and demanded to know what the nuns were doing that was so objectionable. After Becerra reiterated that his lawsuit was against the federal government and had nothing to do with the Little Sisters of the Poor, Sasse made it clear that Becerra’s answer was unacceptably dishonest. “What did the federal government do?” said the senator. “It was about the nuns. It’s nonsense, like what you’re saying isn’t true. You say you didn’t sue the nuns. You sued the federal government that was keeping you from making sure that the nuns had to buy contraceptive insurance. Were the nuns going to get pregnant?”
During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on May 12, 2021, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Becerra denied multiple times that the procedure commonly known as “partial-birth abortion” — i.e., intact dilation and extraction — had been illegal in the United States since the 2003 passage of S.3, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (which then-congressman Becerra had voted against). He was also evasive in his responses to direct questions. For example, Republican congressman Gus Bilirakis asked Becerra if he intended to honor his Senate confirmation-hearing pledge to “follow the law” regarding abortion, and if that pledge included adherence to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Becerra replied: “There is no law that deals specifically with the term ‘partial-birth abortion.’” The two then had the following exchange:
Bilirakis: During your confirmation, you told Sen. Daines that when it comes to laws related to abortion, and I’m quoting, “My job will be to make sure that I’m following the law.” And the question is, do you agree that partial-birth abortion is illegal, sir?
Becerra: Thank you for the question. And as I said in response to some of those questions during my confirmation hearing, we will continue to make sure we follow the law. Again, with due respect, there is no medical term like partial-birth abortion, and so I would probably have to ask you what you mean by that, to describe what is allowed by the law. Roe v Wade is very clear, settled precedent, and a woman has a right to make decisions about her reproductive health. And we will make sure that we enforce the law and protect those rights.
Bilirakis: Okay, and you agree with this particular law?
Becerra: Which law are we talking about, sir?
Bilirakis: The law concerning partial-birth abortion.
Becerra: Well, again, again as I said, there, there is no law that deals specifically with the term partial birth abortions. We are, we have, clear precedent in the law on the rights that women have to reproductive health care, and we, as I said in the confirmation hearing, we will follow the law, and protect the rights of all Americans to their health care.
Republican Rep. John Joyce, a physician by profession, subsequently questioned Becerra on the same issue:
Joyce: [I]t didn’t seem clear that you understood what my colleague, Mr. Bilirakis, meant by the term partial-birth abortion. I think that it needs to be defined as it is in statute section 1531 of Title 18 U.S. Code, literally titled “Partial-birth abortions prohibited.” That statute very clearly defined this inhumane procedure in section B, subsection one. So now with that clarification, could you please recognize that that does exist in statute? And I would ask you, do you agree that this law is correct?
Becerra: Thank you very much and thanks for trying to clarify. I actually, I think I understood the question, and I think I understand your question as well. What I’m trying to explain is that the term partial-birth abortion may be recognized in politics, and by politicians, but it is not a medically recognized term. Perhaps if you were to talk about what you probably know as Dilation and Extraction, which is a procedure used by OB/GYNs, like my wife, to care for a woman who is having a difficult pregnancy, where there’s a chance that the fetus will not survive, then we can talk about that, but what I’m saying to you is that under the law, a physician or any provider of health care, must make sure that he or she abides by the law. And right now what our law says, and it’s pretty settled, is that a woman is entitled to reproductive rights. And so my question is not so much with the term partial-birth abortion. It’s what the rights are of a woman. Our statutes and under our precedents to provide her with the reproductive care that she’s entitled to. And as my wife would tell you, as an OB/GYN, is that the Dilation and Extraction procedure that is often used in late-stage abortions, for women, it’s to protect the health and life of that woman.
Joyce: Just for further clarification, partial-birth abortions are prohibited right now, under current statute, and that is something that you recognize correct, Mr. Secretary?
Becerra: As I said, I recognize that the law provides women with reproductive rights, and that the Roe v Wade decision made very clear under what circumstances, women could exercise those rights. I will do everything I can to make sure we comply with precedent and the law when it comes to protecting a woman’s right to reproductive health.
Joyce: And that does include enforcing this statute, correct?
Becerra: I will make sure that we are providing women with the protections they need on their reproductive rights, and again there, with respect, I know that this is a very sensitive issue for a lot of folks, but I think most medical practitioners will tell you they understand what Dilation and Extraction procedure is. I doubt that most of them can give you a medical definition of partial-birth abortions.
Joyce: As a physician myself, Mr. Secretary, I think I clearly understand what a partial-birth abortion is.
Further Reading: “Xavier Becerra” (Ballotpedia.org, Votesmart.org, Keywiki.org); “The Brown-Becerra Axis for Illegals” (by Lloyd Billingsley, 12-6-2016); “Democratic Members of Congress Introduce America Votes Act of 2012 to Combat Voter Suppression Efforts” (9-18-2012); “Dem Rep: Congress to Blame, Not Sanctuary Cities, for San Francisco Murder” (Breitbart.com, 7-8-2015); “DWS IT Guy Was Banned From House After Trying To Hide Secret Server” (Daily Caller, 9-12-2017); “California’s Top Lawyer Says ‘DREAMERS’ Are ‘Badass’” (Daily Caller, 12-6-2017); “State AG Bans Employer-ICE Cooperation” (Alumni.Berkeley.edu, 2-7-2018).