President Joe Biden nominated former U.S. Congressman and California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra to the position of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If confirmed, Becerra will take lead of the department that oversees the housing and administration of unaccompanied alien children (UAC).
Prior to his nomination for the HHS secretary role, some groups speculated that Biden would tap Becerra to lead the Justice Department or the Department of Homeland Security, both of which have wide jurisdiction over the federal immigration system. Becerra’s role will undoubtedly grow in importance as tens of thousands of asylum-seekers come to the southern border, encouraged by Biden’s promise to amnesty all illegal aliens, bringing children with them.
Unlike adults, law enforcement cannot simply release unaccompanied children into the interior of the country with a notice to appear in immigration court. That is where HHS comes in. In addition to overseeing HIPAA (the federal law which created rules to protect patient privacy), health insurance, social services, public health, and a variety of other programs, HHS is responsible for housing unaccompanied alien children. Unlike Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), HHS is not a law-enforcement agency and houses alien children in shelters only until they locate suitable sponsors or family members in the United States willing to take custody of them.
As HHS Secretary, Becerra will oversee this aspect of the immigration policy of the United States. There is less room for Becerra to eviscerate law enforcement or roll back security programs as the secretary of HHS, unlike the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General. But Becerra does have the ability to affect immigration policy by altering department guidance on “Children Entering the United States Unaccompanied” or by other means, such as ending the practice of contracting out detention space, which HHS did with the Homestead facility in Florida.
Becerra is the child of Mexican immigrants to the United States, and frequently cites his parents in matters of immigration policy. He has long supported relaxing immigration laws to the United States. As a U.S. representative, Becerra fought to include coverage for illegal aliens in the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare. As California’s attorney general, Becerra defended California laws that gave health benefits and coverage to illegal aliens. In FAIR’s 2014 Congressional Voting Report, then-Rep. Becerra voted against FAIR’s position in every single instance.
He supported decriminalizing illegal immigration to the United States. As California’s attorney general, Becerra fined employers up to $10,000 in instances where they cooperated with ICE. He also filed lawsuits against the Trump administration regarding a number of immigration issues, including the border wall, asylum agreements, the COVID-19 visa pause, and over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Becerra will testify before both the Senate Health Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, although only the Finance Committee will vote on his nomination. Following the committee vote, the full Senate will vote on his confirmation. um