Q. and A.: Xavier Becerra on Immigration, ‘Calexit’ and More
Xavier Becerra started his new job as the attorney general of California in January and has since been swept up in a series of confrontations between the Democrat-dominated state and the Trump administration.
Most recently, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funds from California if it adopts so-called sanctuary policies that would prohibit law enforcement from helping the authorities crack down on unauthorized immigrants.
Mr. Becerra agreed to field some questions via email from readers of The New York Times’s California Today newsletter.
Here are a few questions and his responses:
Q. If the Trump administration attempts to withhold federal funds from California, would it be within the state’s powers to withhold our federal taxes?
A. Ann, first let me state what you probably know: California is a donor state to the federal government. We pay more in federal taxes than we ever get back from the federal Treasury. So, to target generous California because you do not like how we run — successfully — our state, is arrogant, un-American and, by the way, against the law.
Just because Donald Trump says it, doesn’t mean he can do it, even if he sits in the White House. As he’s learning, there are limits to the powers of the presidency.
As attorney general, I’m prepared to defend California and the U.S. Constitution against any cavalier attempt by Mr. Trump to impose punitive measures against our people. I’m confident we won’t have to take the route you propose, as tempting as it might be for some.
Q. Are there any circumstances arising out of Trump policies affecting California in which you can foresee state officials considering secession from the union as a viable alternative?
— Robert H. Badner
A. The Calexit movement is definitely growing. That’s understandable given that much of what Donald Trump proposes to do really is a vestige of the past, like when my father could not enter restaurants because of the signs that proclaimed “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed.” But, remember, most of what Donald Trump says is just that: rhetoric.
Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution will make much of his rhetoric as difficult to implement as it is to secede from the Union. Crazy thought: If California were to secede, there could instantly be up to 280 million new people having to knock on the door and seek visas from the sixth largest economy and newest nation in the world!
Q. You believe it is O.K. for foreigners to break the law and enter the U.S. illegally and expect to be supported financially by taxpaying citizens and the State of California will assist this illegal activity?
— Ralph Duncan
A. Ralph, I don’t think it’s O.K. for anyone to break the law. But what you seem to be speaking about isn’t what’s happening, at least not in California. If you’re referring to undocumented immigrants, then you’re wrong about the overwhelming majority of them — or you would have cited plenty of real-life examples to prove your claim.
Please recognize: The majority of immigrants entering our nation today arrive through legal channels after years of applying to enter [Pew Research Center]. And undocumented workers actually pay billions of dollars in taxes, something only flat-earthers try to deny these days. (Read this nonpartisan study.) That’s why every analysis of a comprehensive reform of our broken immigration system reveals that our nation and our economy would benefit from bringing the undocumented out of the shadows.