Immigration hawks in Congress and elsewhere are raising concerns about Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s pick to lead Health and Human Services (HHS), and his stance on illegal immigration — just as the administration is dealing with a surge at the border.
Becerra’s nomination ended in a tie in the Senate Finance Committee this week but is still heading to the Senate floor for a vote in the coming days. Opponents have raised the former California attorney general’s past actions on issues such as abortion and what they say is his lack of health care experience.
But others are flagging his past pushes to provide health care for illegal immigrants.
“His interest is in trying to get illegal aliens on government-subsidized health care options,” an aide to Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Politico. “If he was confirmed, he could weaponize HHS as a mechanism to push for open borders, and legitimize the illegal alien agenda that he’s pushing for. That has gotten some attention on the Hill.”
A letter to President Biden, by Cotton and 74 lawmakers in both the House and Senate, echoed that sentiment, accusing Becerra of seeking “to decriminalize illegal immigration, which would extend expensive government benefits like Medicaid to anyone who illegally crosses our borders.”
Politico reports that Becerra pushed for the initial ObamaCare bill to provide for health care for illegal immigrants. It also reports that as HHS chief, Becerra could give access to exchanges to illegal immigrants, expand health care to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and encourage state Medicaid programs to cover illegal immigrants.
“He’s one of those individuals that had exceedingly deep convictions about the need to cover the undocumented individuals in all of our communities,” former Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas, told the outlet.
Additionally, HHS is a key agency in not only health care, but also in dealing with the ongoing migrant crisis at the border. While agencies like Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are the primary agency for dealing with migrants moving across the border, it will send unaccompanied children to the custody of HHS for care and housing.
The agency has recently reported it is closing in on full capacity at shelters, according to Axios, and is establishing a new center in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
Hawks are concerned what a Becerra pick would mean for that crisis as well.
“In California, Becerra was among those leading the effort to divert state resources to provide publicly subsidized health care coverage to illegal aliens, even as countless other urgent needs were neglected,” Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) President Dan Stein said in a statement this week urging senators to vote no.
“As secretary of HHS, it is almost certain that Becerra will divert much-needed assets to accommodate the needs of a growing number of illegal aliens, and away from Americans affected by the COVID pandemic,” he said.
Heritage Action for America, in an ad targeting Democratic Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kirsten Sinema, accused Becerra of wanting “open borders, even as caravans of illegals head north.”
“Our senators promised to protect Arizona and our country, here’s their chance,” the ad says.
However, Democrats have pushed back against claims Becerra is a radical, noting that he served for 24 years in the House of Representatives and helped write legislation related to health care including the Affordable Care Act.
“If there is an effort to paint the attorney general as some kind of inexperienced radical it’s just not backed up by what the committee saw last week,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.
Wyden noted that it is normal for senators to have differences of opinion with nominees and that Becerra’s nomination was no different.
“But disagreement on some issues alone is not a good enough reason to oppose a nominee as knowledgeable and qualified as Attorney General Becerra,” he said
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.
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