Latino Leaders Back Nomination of Xavier Becerra to Lead HHS

Dec 10, 2020
11:27 AM

Xavier Becerra (Photo by Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Latino advocacy groups have announced their support for the nomination of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services for the incoming Biden administration.

LULAC’s Chief Executive Officer Sindy Benavides lauded Becerra’s role in leading a coalition of 20 states in court battles defending the Affordable Care Act passed under President Obama. Over the past 10 years, more than 20 million Americans, including millions of Hispanics, were able to receive health care coverage under the program. President Trump has repeatedly sought to repeal the law.

“The cascade of suffering due to COVID-19 and health inequities that Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans have been enduring for months in concentrated inner-city and urban centers, is spilling with ferocity into other regions across the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast,” Benavides said. “This makes the role of the Secretary of HHS one of the most critical in the Administration of President Biden.”

LULAC President Domingo Garcia said, “Mr. Becerra’s decades of public service experience, both as a U.S. Congressman and Attorney General of California, have prepared him well to take on this important job.”

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, NALEO, is backing Becerra’s pick as well.

“The first Latino to potentially serve as [Health and Human Services] Secretary, Attorney General Becerra, possesses the leadership, knowledge, and demonstrated experience necessary to help guide our healthcare system through the most dangerous period in modern history,” said NALEO CEO Arturo Vargas.

Becerra is the first Latino to serve as California’s attorney general. He also served more than two decades in the U.S. House of Representatives, including several years in Democratic leadership ranks.

“More than ever, the nation needs experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled leadership at the helm of HHS,” said Jane L. Delgado, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, adding that Becerra will be the steady hand that HHS needs to be the leader in science, health, and human services.”

Eighteen percent of the U.S. population, Latinos have accounted for nearly 58,000, or 20.1 percent, of the total of 287,000 deaths nationwide from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The New York Times reports that “[Latinos] have been hospitalized at the highest rate, 4.2 times the rate of whites, with non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native people hospitalized at 4.1 times the rate of whites and African-Americans at 3.9 times the rate of whites…”

Vargas praised President-elect Joe Biden for his commitment to nominate a diverse cabinet. In addition to Becerra, Biden has announced the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American immigrant and former Obama official, to lead the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration enforcement and naturalization programs.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Lily Eskelsen García, former head of the National Education Association (NEA), has “received endorsements from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and dozens of national Hispanic organizations as she pursues the top job at the U.S. Education Department in the Biden administration.”

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other leading Latino groups have been pressuring Biden to appoint more Latinos to his cabinet and other high level administration posts.

Vargas said, “The President-elect’s dedication to seeing his Cabinet and Administration mirror America is a critical step toward inclusion and representation.”

While some observers note that Becerra has not held a leadership position in the healthcare industry, Delgado said his “decades of experience with government at all levels and legislative and regulatory processes” have prepared him for the job.

Harris Pledges to Dismantle Trump’s Immigration Agenda

Speaking to an audience comprised of many of the nation’s leading immigrants rights advocates this week, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said she and President-elect Biden are determined to “right the wrongs of the last four years” by rolling back the immigration initiatives imposed under President Donald Trump.

Harris delivered her remarks during the2020 National Immigrant Integration Conference, according to reporting by Law360.

Harris, told the group Biden will end an international travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and work to fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The Obama-era initiative was designed to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Trump has tried repeatedly to terminate DACA, but a  federal judge recently ordered the program be fully reinstated. DACA recipients say they want Congress to approve a bill providing the program’s recipients with a path to citizenship.

Harris also told conference attendees the Biden administration “will also ‘repeal indiscriminate enforcement policies that tear families apart and make us less safe,’ indicating a return to prioritizing unauthorized immigrants with criminal records for arrest, rather than families, as did the Obama administration.”

“Together, we will build a better, more humane immigration system,” Harris said.

Alex Padilla to Fill Harris’ U.S. Senate Seat?

According to L.A. Times Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, “Becerra had been one of a handful of powerhouse possibilities to fill the Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a decision most watchers have expected will be made before the end of the month. It’s certainly possible the weekend development further boosts the chances of Secretary of State Alex Padilla, especially as advocacy groups have insisted the state is long overdue to be represented by a Latino in the United States Senate—and Padilla is the choice of notable Democrats such as [the state’s senior U.S.] Sen. Dianne Feinstein.”

Americans and COVID-19 Vaccine

About 60 percent of Americans say they would “definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus, if one were available today,” according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. That figure is up from 51 percent in September.

Among Latinos, 63 percent, as compared to 61 percent of non-Hispanic White adults, say they will get the shot. English-speaking Asian Americans, at 83 percent, say they’re willing to get vaccinated. African Americans, at 42 percent, are less willing to get vaccinated than any other major racial or ethnic groups, Pew reports.

Federal and state health officials are expected to begin distributing millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. as early as this weekend, but the effort to vaccinate most Americans could take several months. President-elect Biden has pledged to inoculate as many as 50 million Americans in his administration’s first 100 days.

The full results from Pew are here.


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