‘My Job Is To Have Your Back,’ California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Tells Pasadena Crowd at City Hall

Published : Thursday, July 13, 2017 | 9:54 PM

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in Council Chambers at Pasadena City Hall on July 13, 2017

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was the featured speaker at an intimate public discussion inside of the Pasadena City Hall Council Chambers Thursday evening where he opened up to the community about his role in public office and thoughtfully answered direct questions from community members.

Becerra was faced with addressing hot topics that included immigration, the environment, marijuana and racial profiling from an audience concerned about what to expect in California in the near future.

The event was hosted by Pasadena area Assemblymember Chris Holden and the City of Pasadena.

“My job is to have your back,” said Becerra to a crowd inside the Chambers.

California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra poses after town hall concluded. Pictured are, from left to right, State Assemblymember Chris Holden, Pasadena Councilmember Andy Wilson, Vice Mayor John Kennedy, Mayor Terry Tornek, Becerra, and Councilmembers Steve Madison and Gene Masuda.

Becerra was sworn in as California’s attorney general on January 2017 after having served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993.

While in Congress, Attorney General Becerra was the first Latino to serve as a member of the powerful Committee on Ways And Means, served as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and was Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.

Becerra’s projected a cool and collected demeanor throughout his discussion that lasted for about an hour. He spent the majority of the time taking questions from the public.

One question presented to Becerra asked about the state of California’s position on immigration and the topic of recognizing sanctuary cities.

“Let’s be clear…immigration is a federal matter. We do not have jurisdiction directly over immigration. We have jurisdiction over public safety, as a state,” explained Becerra. “I think it’s pretty clear that we are not trying to get in the way of the federal immigration authorities from doing what they can lawfully, but forcing our state and local governments to do things because they want us to is against constitutional law.”

A separate, but similar, topic related to immigration that was raised in the discussion was about the status of a law that requires police officers to collect data as a way to combat racial profiling.

“We’ve very close to issuing regulations that will implement the law that passed a couple years ago that said law enforcement must track its contacts with citizens when they are stopped,” explained Becerra.

Under that law, the state’s largest police departments with more than 1,000 officers will have to issue a report detailing the demographics of their stops by April, 2019, and all departments in the state will have to do so by 2023.

“The purpose of that is to collect data that can help us understand the character of the stop and the nature of the basis for the stop and hopefully from there we can start to see if there is evidence of racial profiling or not. I also think it is going to give us the chance to come out with best practices on how we make sure we train law enforcement with regard to many of these stops,” explained Becerra.

Becerra was asked about what his department is doing to protect religious minorities from hate crimes in the wake of President Trump’s controversial travel ban.

“Whether it’s the Muslim travel ban or states enacting laws that discriminate against people who are LGBT, we’re going to make sure that we make it clear that, at least in California, we are not going to be a part of that,” said Becerra. “I hope what the Supreme Court recognizes is that we should not be in the business of institutionalizing discrimination – -at least not in the 21st century,” added Becerra.

The topic of Trump’s proposed border wall found its way into the discussion of discrimination and immigration as well.

“I’m hoping that our representatives in Congress and in the Senate will put up a fight to make sure that it doesn’t happen. If that fails, we are ready for whatever we need to do to try and defend the interest of our state against something like that,” said Becerra.

Representatives from the environmentalist organization Greenpeace asked Becerra about what California is doing to investigate allegations that petroleum company Exxon suppressed climate change research contained in media reports.

According to Becerra, there is a concern that Exxon, along with other petroleum companies, have been misrepresenting how much they know about climate change for quite some time and they present one face for the public and one face for the investors.

In presenting two different faces, they may be committing certain crimes,” said Becerra.

For example, if companies are deceiving consumers, they are subject to prosecution by the district attorneys of California or the Attorney General for deceptive practices against consumers.

If they are deceiving investors, they are subject to prosecution for securities fraud.

“While we don’t announce publicly if we are doing and investigation, I am very aware of that particular matter,” explained Becerra.

Environmental topics continued when someone asked what the future holds for the state’s national monuments under President Trump’s plans to reexamine the monuments and potentially take away their designations.

“We have filed an action in court trying to prevent the federal government from doing what we think is against the law. We have sued the Trump administration and the Department of Interior to halt that. I honestly believe we are going to win more of these matters in the court of public opinion than in the court of law and we need your help,” explained Becerra.

Becerra supports California’s efforts to legalize marijuana.

“I’m going to enforce the laws we have in our state that now legalize small quantities of marijuana, allow us to engage lawfully in the sale and distribution of that, and I’m going to be there to have the back of California as it moves forward. I think it’s just much smarter to regulate and not criminalize marijuana,” said Becerra.

Becerra closed the discussion by reminding the public of his intent to serve the people of California with their best interests in mind.

“As you all figure out how to start that new innovative business, to get that next generation of kids to college, to make sure that everyone has a chance to have decent quality affordable housing, to make sure that when you go to work you don’t have to stop at the food pantry so could afford to eat dinner with your family — I just need you to know that I’ve got your back,” Becerra said.