California will be on the forefront of the fight for immigrants’ rights

Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Xavier Becerra to be the state's new attorney general.

As the state with the most undocumented immigrants, California is set to become the leader in fighting the Trump administration’s immigration policies. On the forefront of that fight will be the newly-appointed state attorney general Xavier Becerra. Becerra is the highest ranking Latino in Congress and the son of Mexican immigrants.

California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Becerra to fill the office vacated by Kamala Harris. If Becerra is approved by the state legislature, he will be the first Latino attorney general in California.

He has represented downtown Los Angeles in Congress for more than 20 years, and over the course of his tenure, Becerra has been outspoken in his support for undocumented immigrants, particularly students in President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). DREAMers, as the students in DACA are known, submit financial and personal information–including fingerprints and information about their families–to get the status. Becerra spoke with KCRW’s Warren Olney to discuss fears from his constituents after Trump’s election.

“Many families are wondering since their child may have applied for DACA and received it, perhaps that means the parents are subject to some type of scrutiny because the child has reported his or her status,” Becerra said. “There are kids who are afraid to go to school because they don’t want to come home and find that their parents won’t be there.”

Becerra wants more protections for these students, particularly as Trump takes office. About a third of the 740,000 DACA students are in California.

“This is where the appointment of Becerra is going to be vital,” Politico reporter Carla Marinucci said on KCRW’s Press Play. “As the top cop in the nation’s most populous state, the state with the most undocumented immigrants, this is a place where leaders at all levels will be watching what Trump does.”

Since the Democrats do not have the majority in Congress, Becerra may be better positioned to fight Trump’s policies as California Attorney General rather than a Democratic congressional representative. However, DACA and its expansion, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, are executive actions and a more permanent solution for undocumented immigrants still needs to come from Congress.

“Congress could pass a law to take care of this, rather than relying on the executive, the  president, to have to do things because Congress fails to act,” Becerra said. “Congress is the only one can do a permanent measure that won’t change. Unfortunately, the president’s measures are temporary and the only last so long as the next president is willing to let them move forward.”