State A.G. slams federal crackdown on immigrants

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra delivering remarks on sanctuary cities in August at San Francisco City Hall. (Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “Tough on Crime” program of maximum prison sentences and crackdowns on undocumented immigrants is “absolutely wrong” and threatens to drive the country into poverty, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday.

“He’s taking us back to the days when the bogeyman drives public policy,” Becerra, the state’s top law enforcement officer, told an audience at a Venice forum sponsored by Atlantic magazine.  Inmates coming out of prison after Sessions-inspired long prison sentences are not always well-equipped to function in society, he said, and that drives up costs to taxpayers and poverty rates.  Communities must have the resources to help alleviate that situation, Becerra added.

“It’s not that I’m looking for a fight, it’s just that I’m trying to protect what has made us so successful.” — Xavier Becerra

Becerra, himself the son of Mexican immigrants, said the Trump administration’s war against sanctuary cities could cause a spike in crime rates because undocumented immigrants are afraid of reporting crimes to police out of fear that they themselves would be deported.

Becerra is challenging the federal government in court over a number of its immigration policies.

“It’s not a question of sanctuary cities, it’s a question of safe cities,” he said.

Asked by interviewer Ron Brownstein how many lawsuits his office has brought against the Trump administration, Becerra said he could not recall the exact number, but it came to “more than a dozen.”

California leads the nation in pursuing clean energy and high-tech, and depending on monetary fluctuations, might become the world’s fifth-largest economy, surpassing Great Britain, Becerra said.  “It’s not that I’m looking for a fight, it’s just that I’m trying to protect what has made us so successful,” he said.

“California is doing what the rest of the nation will be doing. They’re just a little behind,” Becerra told Brownstein.

Touching briefly on other topics, Becerra said:

–His office is looking into practices of the Stockton Unified School District’s Police Force, along with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Force.  He did not disclose any findings in the ongoing investigations.

–California needs bail reform based on a defendant’s “characteristics,” rather than simply whether he or she can raise bail money.  “Raising bail money is no guarantee the person won’t commit a crime while they’re out.”

–As an example of the bail system’s injustice, Becerra cited onetime Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s ability to put up millions in bail money and be confined to house arrest while a poor defendant would be behind bars.


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