SACRAMENTO — Returning to his alma mater, C.K. McClatchy High School, Attorney General Xavier Becerra stood in front of students, parents and cameras Tuesday night to deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union in Spanish.
“It says to other students that it does not matter where you come from, how humble your background may be, you can reach those dreams through hard work,” said C.K. McClatchy Principal Peter Lambert.
Having sued the Trump administration 45 times over varying issues, the attorney general is used to being at odds with the president. His speech was expected to be no exception.
“He is the symbol of resistance in California,” said CALmatters columnist Dan Walters.
Walters said we should expect immigration and health care to be top focuses for Becerra’s rebuttal.
“He’ll be talking about immigration, seeing himself as kind of the embodiment of the American dream. His parents were immigrants from Mexico,” Walters told FOX40.
While Tuesday night’s speeches are mostly symbolic, Walters says talking points will be geared toward party agendas for the presidential election.
“This is all part of the beginning of the 2020 presidential campaign,” Walters said. “He is going to be part and parcel of it. Not as a candidate but as a figure in that battle.”
As for students watching in the audience, just seeing an alumnus from their school on the national stage is a point of pride.
“Knowing that he graduated from McClatchy just gives me a little boost of like, you know, I could do it,” said student Doris Cruz-Cortes. “We could all do it. Everyone, every single student in this school could do it.”
The attorney general’s speech was not the first time a State of the Union response was delivered in Spanish, as well as English. The first time that happened was back in 2011.
Read the English translation of Becerra’s speech below in its entirety:
It is an honor to be here with you from C.K. McClatchy High School in the City of Sacramento, the capital of the State of California. I am here with future leaders of our country — McClatchy students — where I also studied, but about four decades ago!
I am the son of working immigrants and the first in my family to walk through the doors of a university, and through the doors of opportunity.
My parents began their life together in the United States for the same reason that many other families come to this country: to work hard and give their children a better life. Upon leaving Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, they brought with them their faith and not much else. They trusted in the promise of this country that all those who work hard and play by the rules, have earned the opportunity to get ahead.
I know I am the product of those who fought to open the doors of opportunity. The optimism – that characterizes the waves of immigrants who have come here – runs through my blood. And if the state of our nation can be characterized as “strong,” it is because people like my parents and yours — citizens or immigrant — built this country.
During 24 years of service as a member of Congress, I learned much about our great country and I worked with three different presidents. And, now, as Attorney General, I defend and advocate for the rights of millions of Americans here in California and, by extension, throughout the United States.
Allow me an obvious observation:
There is no other country like the United States.
The world needs us strong and ready. The world looks to us as a leader and partner.
If America falls, everyone gets hurt.
The state of our union decides destinies.
How can it be, then, that our young, rich, and strong nation finds itself in a state of disorder, stress, hostility?
How can it be that what defines the state of our country in 2019 is the shutdown of the government at the hands President Trump? And not only once, but perhaps a second time in the coming weeks.
Who would believe that the state of our union would be propelled by President Trump’s extravagant obsession to build a wall on the border that not even the experts want? The President no longer even repeats his promise that Mexico will pay for the thousands of millions of dollars that the wall would cost.
And if all that were not enough to worry us, how can it be explained that our nation lives under an intense investigation about Russian interference in our 2016 presidential elections and the involvement of President Trump?
Criminality, conspiracy, obstruction of justice — all of these dark shadows follow Donald Trump and his Administration.
It shouldn’t surprise us that the majority of people here in the United States think that the country is moving in the wrong direction. And that four out of 10 Americans believe that this is the worst government that they have seen in their life.
Tonight was about convincing us that, from here on out, the deceit and dysfunction would stop and that cooperation would begin. What we heard was the same tired refrain of building walls.
If President Trump wanted to seriously advance comprehensive immigration reform, including border security, Democrats are and have been ready. But closing our government — and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without work or pay — is not that way to do it.
And the idea of declaring a state of emergency on the border when one doesn’t exist, in order to justify robbing funds that belong to the victims of fires, floods, and hurricanes, to pay for the wall is not only immoral, it is illegal.
We are ready to reject this foolish proposal, in court, the moment it touches the ground.
The wall on the border is not the only wall that we are seeing that this Administration is trying to build:
1. They are also putting a wall between you and your doctor, dictating what services you can receive. That is why my fellow Attorneys General and I defend, in court, people like Elizabeth from Florida. Having healthcare coverage allowed her to complete university and ensured that her husband had coverage to defeat cancer. And now, Elizabeth is an attorney.
2. Also the Trump Administration — they are putting a wall between you and the voting booth. But I have news for you here: They failed! During the November elections, Latinos, especially young people, came out to vote in historic numbers! Thank you!
3. What else? They are also putting a wall between our veterans and their medical services. They are ready to waste millions of dollars on a border wall instead of helping our veterans who deal with long delays in hospitals.
4. And they’re also building a wall between parents and their children, by putting children in cages that separate them from their families.
Friends, believe me, we can bring down walls with our hands. More than that, we have already done it!
You don’t believe me?
With your votes last November, you changed the composition of Congress. The votes of congress members the President relied on, he no longer has them. Now, he has to learn to govern in a democracy.
He can no longer ignore the Democrats. That is why he doesn’t have his wall.
Your vote in November changed the votes in Congress. And that has changed the politics of our nation.
Now that you see your power, are you ready to open new doors?
Don’t you think that it is already the time that we in our government build schools, not walls? Then, get those hands ready to vote in the next election!
Our system of government rewards the participation of everyone. And with 66,000 Latino citizens reaching 18 years of age, the voting age, every month, we have many hands to reward.
Imagine if we had the power to decide this nation’s political agenda.
Better schools: Check!
Medical care for your family that politicians can’t take away from you: Check!
Salaries with benefits and protection on the job: Check!
Better laws to protect our families and our police from the violent use of firearms: Check!
Permanent protection for the Dreamers: Check!
Laws to protect the water we drink and the air we breathe: Check!
And comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken system: Check! Check! Check!
This was not the agenda presented by the President. But these are the solutions that open the doors of opportunity.
In the courts and in Congress, or at the polls, we have to fight for our agenda. That is why I have fought as Attorney General in court against the President’s Administration and we are winning!
1. In protecting the DACA program, we fought and won for 700,000 young people.
2. In protecting the Affordable Care Act, we are the protagonists. More than four million Latinos depend on the ACA for their health insurance.
3. In protecting college students against fraudulent loans, we fought and won for thousands of them.
Two weeks ago, my parents celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. They began their life together with just their faith. They still remember the days when they couldn’t even cross through the doors of restaurants because of signs that said: “No dogs or Mexicans allowed.”
Over the years, they have reaped the fruits of their labor and dedication to their family. There is no doubt that the ‘State of the Union’ of Maria Teresa and Manuel Becerra is strong and resilient.
If you asked my parents what is the state of our Nation, I am sure they would paint an image more real than what President Trump presented tonight. They know what it means to work hard and to respect the rules.
And they know well that to stay strong as a united people, we have to work together and push those heavy doors open so that all our children – like the students from CK McClatchy – can walk through them, and have an opportunity.
Whether it’s with marches on the streets or marches to the polling booths, with fights in the court or through Congress, we will do what’s needed to ensure a strong and vibrant national Union.
Friends, with faith and the strength of our labor, and respecting the diverse contributions of the American people, the United States will continue to be the home of the American Dream.
Thank you. Good night and may God bless you.