Read more about the episode here.

Maria Hinojosa: This is Latino USA, the radio journal of news and cultura. It’s Latino USA. 

Welcome to Latino USA. 

I’m Maria Hinojosa. 

We bring you stories that are underreported, but that matter to you. Overlooked by the rest of the media. And while the country is struggling to deal with these problems. We listen to the stories of Black and Latino students.

A united Latino front. A cultural renaissance. Organizing at the forefront of the movement. I’m Maria Hinojosa. 

¡No se vayan! 

HHS Official: I have the privilege of introducing the 25th Secretary of HHS, the first Latino Secretary in the role, Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

Xavier Becerra: Belated Happy Thanksgiving to everybody. I hope it was good. 

Can we bring some coffee in here, please? (Laughs) Actually, if you’re like me, you need something else because I don’t drink coffee. 

I think we all recognize that having the things that give us joy, That make us happy, that make us smile without even realizing it, are the things that keep us healthy. 

Maria Hinojosa: It is a pretty cold morning in December, and we find ourselves in the large lobby of the Health and Human Services headquarters. There is a stage set up, there’s instruments there, which doesn’t seem like a big deal because, it’s a morning concert near the holidays. Well, it turns out, this is in fact for the HHS a big deal. 

They tell me that they’ve never had a music concert in the building before.

Xavier Becerra will talk to his employees and some of the people from the community who are here, about the power of music as healing. Which, itself, is not such a revolutionary concept, but for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to be promoting this, instead of, let’s say, a visit to a hospital or an antidepressant, well, it’s interesting.

Xavier Becerra: Healthcare professionals, doctors, my wife, who’s a physician, will say to me, you need some good medicine. What we’re learning is some of the best medicine has nothing to do with a pill or some invasive procedure. It just, it has to do with reaching your heart without ever having to physically touch anything, and in so many ways, that’s what music does, right?

Maria Hinojosa: The event was officially named “Music is Medicine,” and there was a focus on how mental health can be impacted by music. 

So there were kids playing steel drums, an elderly choir. “¡Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad!” And yes, some good old DC Go-Go music made up by a band of guys who work for the EMS and the DC Fire Department.

After the hour-long concert, I went to his massive office for a sit-down interview.

Welcome Secretary Xavier Becerra to Latino USA. 

Xavier Becerra: Thank you, Maria. 

Maria Hinojosa: You may have made some enemies today. 

Xavier Becerra: Oh, oh! 

Maria Hinojosa: You know why?

Xavier Becerra: No. 

Maria Hinojosa: Well, because what you were saying was, you said: So the thing about music is that it can actually, in many ways, help you heal. You don’t need a pill. 

Xavier Becerra: Yeah, well, you know what? In some of our days, our folks couldn’t afford the pills.

They couldn’t afford to go into the doctor’s office. You had the, the “té,” you had the remedies that came from the previous generation, and you know what, sometimes they worked pretty good. 

Maria Hinojosa: My mom was doing cupping way before. 

Xavier Becerra: Yeah. 

Maria Hinojosa: And obviously then there’s “Vicks Vapor Rub.” 

Xavier Becerra: Yeah, you know, I, I have no qualms thing. Let’s, let’s just put it this way: I guarantee you listening to a song is a lot less expensive than taking one of those pills. 

Maria Hinojosa: So when you need to heal, let’s just say, what’s, what’s your go-to? 

Xavier Becerra: Well, I could show you my mix and it is an eclectic mix.

Maria Hinojosa: Okay.

Xavier Becerra: Ok, so here we go. 

So it’s obviously lots of songs, lots of songs, but I’ll just go through a quick list for you.

Maria Hinojosa: Okay. 

Xavier Becerra: Okay. “La Murga,” Willie Colón.

Maria Hinojosa: Okay. 

Xavier Becerra: Okay.

“La Nave del Olvido,” José José. 

Maria Hinojosa: Okay. 

“Espera, aún la nave del olvido no ha partido”…

Xavier Becerra: “Si el amor se va,” Roberto, Carlos. 

Maria Hinojosa: Wow. Mr. Romántico. “Si el amor se va”…

Xavier Becerra: And then updating, you know, Michael Jackson 

“So beat it! But you wanna be bad.”

And then now with the girls, my daughters, keeping up with some of the more recent music. Music is medicine.

Maria Hinojosa: From Futuro Media and PRX, it’s Latino USA, I’m Maria Hinojosa. 

Today, a conversation with Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra.

Xavier Becerra was born 66 years ago in Sacramento, California. His mother is an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico. His father was a US-born day laborer who later worked in construction. 

Secretary Becerra’s life in political office spans decades. He became a US Congressman in 1992 and served for 12 terms until 2017, when he succeeded Kamala Harris as the Attorney General for the State of California.

Kamara Harris: I, Xavier Becerra.

Xavier Becerra: I, Xavier Becerra. 

Kamara Harris: Do solemnly swear.

Xavier Becerra: Do solemnly swear.

Kamara Harris: That I will support and defend.

Xavier Becerra: That I will support and defend.

Kamara Harris: The Constitution of the United States.

Xavier Becerra: The Constitution of the United States. 

Maria Hinojosa: During his tenure as Attorney General, Becerra sued former President Trump, multiple times.

Over DACA. 

Xavier Becerra: The great state of California will be filing a lawsuit today against the Trump administration, for its unconstitutional and illegal termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Maria Hinojosa: Over the border wall. 

Xavier Becerra: If the President is essentially stealing money that’s been allocated to go to the various states for various purposes, but no longer will, we’re being harmed. Our people are being harmed. You don’t have to reside in Texas and, by the way, on behalf of the people of Texas, we’ll be, we’ll be trying to defend their right to have their taxpayer dollars used the right way not an unconstitutional way 

Maria Hinojosa: And international students’ visas.

Xavier Becerra: It’s ridiculous. You don’t do business this way. And we’re not going to let the President do it this way. 

Maria Hinojosa: In 2020, President Biden nominated Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, an office he took over a few months later.

In his role, the Secretary oversees agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which works with migrant children. And that’s just to name a few of the offices under his direction. 

During the Secretary’s tenure, HHS has capped the cost of insulin for nearly four million senior citizens on Medicare.

This is something the Biden campaign brings up a lot as the President is running for re-election. And because of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, Medicare is able, for the first time, to directly negotiate with drug companies, to lower the cost of some important, and yet traditionally expensive prescription drugs used for blood clots and chronic kidney disease, for example.

But the administration and the Agency and the Secretary have also received pushback and critiques, especially related to the treatment of migrant children, some of whom, even though they were under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, ended up in the hands of human traffickers, and labor exploiters.

So today, as part of our election year coverage, “The Latino Factor. How We Vote,” we sit down with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Here’s my one-on-one conversation with Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Secretary, you have a real focus on mental health. In fact, it’s one the things that you have consistently brought up in your role as Secretary of HHS. And you also know that Latina teenagers battle major mental health issues, including attempted suicide.

Xavier Becerra: Yeah. There’s no doubt that there are a lot of young people, young women, Latinas, who experienced suffer quite a bit, certainly here, in this job as Secretary of HHS, I get to focus on that more, but as a member of Congress, I worked on a number of behavioral health issues. 

Maria Hinojosa: You call it behavioral health as opposed to mental health? 

Xavier Becerra: Yeah, because behavioral health, if you talk mental health, you often leave out the issues that arise from substance use disorders. And sometimes they go hand in hand. If you have a substance use disorder, sometimes it leads to depression, or anxiety, or other mental health issues, or vice versa.

Maria Hinojosa: I’m very public about a lot of health issues. I’m super public about, hmm, having had PTSD, having had two abortions. But I’m also very public about having, having a therapist. Still, have you done therapy? 

Xavier Becerra: I mean, some people probably would say, why haven’t you seen a therapist in your life? (Laughs) 

Maria Hinojosa: You haven’t seen a therapist?

Xavier Becerra: I have not. No. 

Maria Hinojosa: I mean, ’cause it would be a big deal, right? If, if the Secretary of HHS said, well, you know what? After all of these years, I’ve decided I want to try some therapy. 

Xavier Becerra: Well, you know, the therapy isn’t just for someone who’s, you know, about to take the wrong fork in the road. Therapy can be for just somebody who’s feeling a little down and or had a bad stretch of events.

Your checkup should include not just your blood pressure, your weight, but also your mental condition. 

Maria Hinojosa: You’ve invested nearly a billion dollars on the crisis prevention hotline, which is 988. 988, is essentially the response to 911 on the question of if you are feeling suicidal, suicide ideation, severe mental health call 988, am I right? 

Xavier Becerra: Yeah. Or you, you want to stop taking a drug and you just don’t know how to quit. You’ve lost hope. You have anxiety, that’s becoming worse. You are in a state of depression that may lead you to go further down that road. All of those things. 

Maria Hinojosa: When was 988 established? 

Xavier Becerra: A year and a half ago. 

Maria Hinojosa: Okay. And the numbers in a year and a half, you’ve received more or less?

Xavier Becerra: Millions. 

Maria Hinojosa: Millions of calls? 

Xavier Becerra: Yes. 

Maria Hinojosa: In Spanish too? 

Xavier Becerra: In Spanish too.

Maria Hinojosa: I didn’t know about it. So I’m just like, did I miss it? Did I not see it? So what’s your sense of, of kind of… A criticism that exists about the entire administration is not actually tooting your own horn, kind of not putting yourselves out there enough.

So what would be the reason why there wouldn’t be 988 everywhere, on the bus stops, in every kind of public building? 

Xavier Becerra: (Laughs.)Yeah, that’s a great question It does take money. I hope you’re going to use your social media platforms to talk 988 after we finish this. We just, we have to get it out there. It is difficult to get word out sometimes unless you’ve got some real resources to help you with that campaign.

We’re fortunately getting more and more people, athletes, entertainers, respected leaders to mention 988. 

Maria Hinojosa: The issue of guns has actually become really important for Latino and Latina voters. So from your position at HHS, somebody who cares about mental health and et cetera, but you know, there is the gun problem.

So what can you do? What are you doing? What is your perspective on what should be done on this particular issue, specifically because Latino and Latina voters care about it? 

Xavier Becerra: Much of the focus has been on the mental state of many of the perpetrators of the gun violence. The Department of Health and Human Services has worked with states and local communities to try to provide them with more resources to deal with the need for mental health services.

Clearly, communities need more assistance. The federal government tries to assist, but we don’t have the jurisdiction, the authority to tell a state what to do on… on healthcare, including mental health. What we can do is offer some dollars to get them to move in a particular direction. So for example, 988, it’s really operated by the states, but because we, we have so heavily invested in making it work, we’ve served as the glue to keep them together.

We have certified community behavioral health centers, which are 24/7.

Maria Hinojosa: I’m thinking, well, one of the people who might be calling; could be a young Latina in the state of Texas who wants an abortion. And can’t get it, cannot access, works as a server, works six days a week, can’t get the money to put it together, to travel to another state, can’t get the days off, and as you know, reproductive rights, the issue of abortion, it’s actually in the top issues again for Latino and Latina voters.

So what, what do you say as HHS on the issue of reproductive rights, and abortion, and access, at a time when the Supreme Court overturned this basic right to healthcare and privacy for women? 

Xavier Becerra: I disagree with what the Supreme Court said in regards to Dobbs. Everyone has the right to decide what to do with their own self, their own body.

Politicians have no right to tell you what to do with your own body. And now the Supreme Court’s entered the game, which I think is devastating not just for people’s health care rights and certainly women’s reproductive rights, but for the Supreme Court. Because it so undermines its credibility to be an arbiter at the highest level for the toughest decisions in our country. When we, when the Supreme Court loses its credibility, we’re in real trouble.

Maria Hinojosa: Coming up on Latino USA. 

My conversation with HHS secretary, Xavier Becerra continues. 

Stay with us! ¡No te vayas!

Maria Hinojosa: Welcome back to Latino USA. We’re going to continue my conversation now with the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

We’re going to talk now about Latino representation in the White House, immigration, and more. Here’s the rest of my conversation.

So I don’t know if you remember this, Secretary Becerra, but actually you were on our show on Latino USA in the 1990s. You were a congressman in California. Let’s listen to this cut of tape, and then we’re going to talk about it. 

A quick aside, dear listener, this is the voice of María Martin, the founding executive producer of Latino USA.

María Martin: Well, let’s take a look then and get your assessment of the issues affecting Latinos and the role that Latinos will play in the second Clinton administration. Some people have criticized the President, for instance, for naming only one Latino to his second Cabinet. How do you view the role that Latinos are and will be playing in his second administration?

Xavier Becerra: Well, certainly, I think you must say that the first role that Latinos played was to get the President elected. There’s no doubt that Latinos were a major force behind the President’s reelection in 1996. Did he recognize that as he should have? I think in his first instance, he failed. As you said, he only appointed one Latino to his Cabinet.

He did appoint two other high-level Latinos, but, still, we went from two to one in the, in the Cabinet. I’m very concerned now that there will only be one, if we’re lucky, Latino within the White House at the higher levels of assistant to the President when there are some 20 or 22 positions. That would concern me greatly.

Maria Hinojosa: We have a reality, a numbers reality about Latinos and Latinas in the United States, right? Our growth is extraordinary. And not from immigration, from births, right? We know that about every minute a Latino or Latina turns 18. So, the possibilities are, are rolled in democracy, literally in our hands. But you know, the next, the follow-up question, which is going to be like, well, that’s great that there’s four members of the Cabinet.

What does it really mean for Latinos and Latinas? Is representation by numbers. How far does it get us with the distance that you have now in your 30 years in this business? 

Xavier Becerra: So it’s, it’s not the end all to have numbers because at the end of the day, we’re not just Latinos and Latinas were. Americans, we are human beings.

It matters because when one of those four Cabinet secretaries stands up, some young kid is going to say: “Papi, yo también puedo hacer eso.” And I’ll say, “¡Claro que sí!” But tip your hat to President Joe Biden for naming four of us, as Americans who are of Latino descent, big deal, not end all, but a pretty big deal.

So we, we want folks to see that we’re all good Americans and we can all be accomplished and do things for this great country. You just got to let us prove it. I don’t know if in another country, I’d, I’d got a chance to do this as the son of two individuals who never got to college. So we keep improving in this country.That’s the beauty of America, right? 

Maria Hinojosa: So, as you know, we were with the Vice President recently, where she’s specifically going out and actually rallying young Latino and Latina voters, Black voters. Joe Biden has been around for a long time, right? There’s nothing that he doesn’t know about the politics of this country.

Do you think that he gets the importance of the Latino, Latina vote like profoundly? Because I think the feeling out there, honestly, and I know you know this too, because you have daughters who are in their twenties, is that not. Is there a connection there between Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Latino and Latina voters and enthusiasm, and we’re going to register for you? Do you think he gets that and how important it could be to getting him over the top? 

Xavier Becerra: So I could give you the simple answer of yes, but rather than give you that and have you say, “Oh yeah, that’s what you have to say.” Let me, let me pose it a different way. Name me another President who has in a limited number of Cabinet slots named four Latinos to serve in his Cabinet in important positions. I’ll let the clock tick, but you, why waste time because you won’t be able to name another President who’s done that? 

Name another President who has said that he would make the most expensive medicine through a vaccine made available to the American public, available to everyone for free, including people who are not U.S. citizens.

I’ll wait a little while longer, but we’ll waste time if I do, because there’s never been another President other than Joe Biden. 

Name me another President who has stood up, on his very first day, introduced legislation to reform a broken immigration system. Maybe there’s one other one I can think of that did that. I’m not sure. I know one that did and that’s President Joe Biden. 

Now maybe he, some people don’t think that Joe Biden gets Latinos, but it sure is very coincidental, accidental luck, that President Joe Biden is doing a lot of things exactly where we need him to do them to help Latino families who are trying really hard, like my parents did.

And I’m more interested in not what someone says, but what someone does. I always tell people, you want to know what a leader is going to do for you? Where are they going to take you? Know where they came from. I know Joe Biden came from working class roots, and I think that’s where his heart is and most Latinos are working class.

And so when we broke records on the number of people who enrolled in health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Marketplace, guess who benefited the most? Latinos. When we are fighting out to keep people on the Medicaid program during this process of re-enrollment that’s occurring now after, the public health crisis in COVID, guess who’s benefiting most?

In so many ways, what President Biden is doing is helping Latinos the most, not because they’re Latinos necessarily, because, like Joe Biden, they come from working-class, blue-collar backgrounds. 

Maria Hinojosa: So what he’s doing on this issue of immigration intersects with you, because of your role in managing refugee resettlement and children and health in general.

I mean, there has to be some frustration there with all due respect. And my sense is that there was an opportunity, there still is, right?, for this administration, for you to actually change the narrative entirely. That’s not what people are feeling. 

Xavier Becerra: I want to answer this as directly as I can. Because I have lived it, I’ve witnessed it, and for years and years, I worked this issue of immigration, right? As a member of Congress, my first, my first year, 1993, I was on the Immigration Subcommittee. At that point, I was fighting not just against Republicans, but even some conservative Democrats who were not really good on the issue. So I, I have a lot of perspective on this.

And I was, this is what I will tell you. Immigration’s never been an easy political issue. Republican or Democrat, it’s been a tough issue for them. For someone like me, not so tough. I’m the son of immigrants. I had a Congressional District where a lot of the folks were hardworking immigrants. I have no problem.

I sued my President because of the way he was treating immigrants at the border and in detention facilities. I have watched a President who has tried to treat people humanely at the border. And I can tell you from a very personal and direct work experience that we don’t cage kids coming across the border.

We offer them the kind of care that in many cases they don’t even have in the home country, because they’re just children to, to us.

I’m licensed to do that by the President of the United States, to treat those individuals as human beings. 

Maria Hinojosa: Let’s pause here for a second. The Trump administration did get national attention for its caging of people with chain link fences.

Now, there have been severe critiques of the conditions under which children and migrants, and refugees have been held under the Biden administration. 

Now, back to our conversation with Secretary Becerra. 

Xavier Becerra: I think Joe Biden, in the specter of what Presidents have done and how they’ve treated people who are coming from other lands, he has treated people with dignity and he is dealing with a broken immigration system and broken immigration laws, so he’s limited in how he can display that, but I will tell you that with regard to what the President has done on immigration, I would come work for him again, understanding what he’s trying to accomplish.

Maria Hinojosa: That’s a ringing endorsement, which is interesting because, again, it intersects with your work, especially because you have a wife who’s a medical doctor, you head HHS. Because you know the controversy around Title 42.

Xavier Becerra: I do. 

Maria Hinojosa: Which is that everybody thought, Oh my God, Joe Biden is elected now. Title 42 is going to go away. Again, Title 42, created under Donald Trump as a way to say, you’re bringing COVID into the United States. You don’t get to come, don’t even cross the border. You’re turned away right here. And, sadly, it didn’t happen in President Biden’s first year. It just was rescinded. Where are we? Three years, and the anger that that, the lingering anger and distrust that that has created.

Xavier Becerra: Maria, what you’ve left out is that a court ordered this administration not to pull down Title 42. And for, for many, many months, even while the administration was working on how to handle Title 42 and its aftermath, there was a court ruling that guided much of what this administration could do. 

Maria Hinojosa: Another quick pause for context.

It is true that a judge stopped the Biden administration from ending Title 42 until 2023. But it’s also true that the Biden administration did not officially take action to end the measure until May of 2022, almost two and a half years into President Biden’s first term. And that was after mask mandates across the country had eased up, businesses had reopened, and millions of people had already been fully vaccinated.

And during the entire pandemic, U.S. citizens who went back to Mexico, were actually allowed to come back into the United States without being tested for COVID or required to have had any of the vaccines. But immigrants and refugees were kept out. All right, let’s go back to my conversation with Secretary Becerra.

Xavier Becerra: By the way, I’m not saying that what the Biden administration has done on immigration makes sense to everyone. But this is what happens when you’re trying to work with laws that have been in place for decades and didn’t work after they were passed and certainly now after decades are clearly showing there’s, there’s signs of decrepitness and inferiority.

And now what the President is doing is trying to figure out how to work this the best he can with a broken immigration system. And so seeing how he has handled it, I at least know that he’s respecting that these are human beings, but he’s also expecting that folks will recognize those, these individuals have to respect what American law says with regard to their status in this country.

Maria Hinojosa: So I’m going to paint an image for you and I want to know what your immediate reaction is because we’re not going to talk just about Joe Biden, right? This is about Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

There have been moments, right, where you actually welcome the children. I mean, literally get on your knees with one of these children who has come as a refugee with their parent, et cetera, and say, “Bienvenido”.

I mean, I’ve said that to people in the New York City subway, and it’s made them cry. 

I mean, you’re a politician, Secretary, you know the power of that image were you to get on your knees and say, “Welcome to this country, I will protect you.” And yet not even a, we don’t even get the performative. And I’m like, I mean, you could do that. 

Xavier Becerra: So do you want performance? Or do you want results? 

Maria Hinojosa: I mean, that’s part of the, like, isn’t that part of the dilemma, right? 

Xavier Becerra: Not for me. 

Maria Hinojosa: But the Democratic Party it’s perceived, it’s like, what, what have you done? Maybe you need to be more performative. Maybe you need to, like, show us in a big way. And you’re like, well, we’re doing things quietly.

Xavier Becerra: I mean, I tried for 24 years to do immigration reform. Every year I was in Congress, I tried to do immigration reform. Didn’t happen. That hurts. I’ve seen no President succeed in coming up with a great immigration system, because no Congress that I’ve seen has given the President the tools to do it. And so, is the work that you would like to see the President do showing up?

I think it is, in that we are… Do you see immigrant families afraid to come forward? And, in my case, declare their sponsorship for this unaccompanied child that I have in my custody. Do you see families afraid to say that their child is a U.S. Citizen and it qualifies for Medicaid? 

Maria Hinojosa: You’re saying that under the Biden administration, unlike under the Trump administration, if they come forward, they will not be immediately deported.

Xavier Becerra: If families who are working hard in this country come forward, DACA recipients, others. The immediate reaction of this President is not, “So I must deport you.” The President will say you are going to be deported if you have committed crimes, done things the wrong way in this country. 

Maria Hinojosa: When you say done things the wrong way, you’re not saying crossing the border without papers.

Xavier Becerra: There are many people in this country who’ve been here for years. Who have worked for years and years, they served us, they’re blowing our lawn, they’re caring for our elderly and our children. The reason I don’t believe it’s fair to just tell someone you’ve been here for 20 years, we found out you don’t have documents, you should be deported, is we tangled with them for those 20 years.

How do you now just say, get out of town? 

You are entitled to a chance to prove that you have a right to stay, but that doesn’t grant you the stay. You have to prove you have the right to stay. At least, we have a President who is trying to work through this broken immigration system, is trying to give people the chance to prove it. 

Maria Hinojosa: So Secretary, we just have to talk about it because it’s what’s happening in Gaza, right? And so, as you know, hospitals have been bombed in Gaza. One of my early memories as a journalist was being in El Salvador during the offensive of 89 and being in a hospital that had been bombed.

And just the horror of hospitals being bombed in Gaza in, in other wars and you head up Health and Human Services and everybody is clamoring for, for more in terms of you and the administration on the question of what’s happening in Gaza.

Xavier Becerra: So I have had conversations with the Health Minister of Israel, with the Health Minister for the Palestinian Authority, you’re asking me a question about a matter that is, is, is tough for me, my, I’m the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and so I absolutely care about health, human services, not just for Americans, but just generally. I mean, the pandemic, COVID showed that we are not alone, I’m not safe until you’re safe, we’re not safe until people outside the U.S. are safe. 

Humanity doesn’t deserve to perish because individuals decide to take the sanctity of life into their own hands. I won’t go into this whole situation in Gaza, except to say, even in war, there are rules of engagement and no life deserves to be lost. And so I’m in those conversations with the two Health Ministers. It was clear the need to be supportive of life and to provide resources to help save lives. 

Maria Hinojosa: I mean, it’s interesting that this issue has for Latino and Latina voters, really like your kids in their twenties, it’s front and center.

Xavier Becerra: Yeah. I hope everyone in America, but especially our young folks pay close attention. We need the voices of everyone. And we want everyone to understand how important subjects are, including those that aren’t happening here in the U.S. And so, uh, We are fortunate to have in this country the ability to express ourselves, so do it.

Maria Hinojosa: Well, Secretary, you handle some pretty intense topics. 

Xavier Becerra: You better believe it. 

Maria Hinojosa: You wanted to be Secretary of HHS? 

Xavier Becerra: I wanted to make a difference. And I knew health, I’d worked health for so many years. I’d heard health for decades because Carolina was so immersed in it; so good at it. And I knew I could make a difference, especially in this moment of time, especially when we were facing a pandemic and we were seeing what we typically see, the folks who are dying most or the folks who had the least access to the care. And so could I make a difference? This was set up just, just for a guy like me who wants to make a difference.

Maria Hinojosa: So in the midst of all of that, how do you find that like, okay, I’m doing this again? I’m going back out there. 

Xavier Becerra: For me, it’s pretty simple. Get home. Uh, I’ve, I’ve done a lot of work that’s taken me away from my home. I have, I have a home in DC, but that’s not home. My home is where Carolina is, where Carolina and my three daughters were before they all grew up and moved out.

Choice is pretty simple. 

Maria Hinojosa: So it’s literally the littlest things?  

Xavier Becerra: Yeah. I used to love to do outdoor things. Like I used to love the game of golf. I just don’t have time to spend four or six hours in a golf course, and so if I can, you know, see family, it’s, it’s fun, in whether it’s because they’re helping me install a microwave or because we’re helping cook the Thanksgiving dinner, you know, it don’t take much and, and, you know, now if I have a chance, I’m going to try to do a little bit more traveling with Carolina because we hope to, now that we’re not having to worry about where the kids are in school and so forth, maybe we’ll have more time. 

Maria Hinojosa: Secretary, thank you so much for joining me on Latino USA. 

Xavier Becerra: Maria to you and thank you for having me.

Maria Hinojosa: This episode was produced by Reynaldo Leaños Jr. It was edited by Andrea López-Cruzado. It was mixed by Julia Caruso. Fact-checking for this episode by Roxana Aguirre. 

The Latino USA team also includes Victoria Estrada, Glorimar Márquez, Marta Martínez, Mike Sargent, Nour Saoudi, and Nancy Trujillo. 

Peniley Ramírez is our co-executive producer. Our director of engineering is Stephanie Lebow. Additional engineering support by Gabriela Baez and JJ Carubin. Our marketing manager is Luis Luna. 

Our theme music was composed by Xenia Rubinos. 

I’m your host and executive producer, Maria Hinojosa. Join us again next time. And in the meantime, remember, ¡No te vayas!

And here’s something important. If you are ever in need of emotional support or have a mental health emergency, remember you can call 988. 

Again, that’s 988. In Spanish, 988, por si acaso necesitas ayuda con tu estado mental. No te olvides. ¡Hasta la próxima!

Bye. Ciao. 

Stephanie Lebow: Latino USA is made possible in part by The Heising-Simons Foundation, unlocking knowledge, opportunity, and possibilities. More at The Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. And the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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