By Alberto Garcia
California Governor Gavin Newsom chose Assemblyman Rob Bonta to fill the vacancy left when State Attorney General Xavier Becerra became the new Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Biden Administration.
Bonta, 48, who was born a US Citizen in the Philippines to a US Citizen father, moved to California when he was only a few months old and grew up in the Bay Area. He graduated from Yale University, studied at Oxford, and earned his law degree from Yale Law School.
“As California’s Attorney General, I will work tirelessly every day to ensure that every Californian who has been wronged can find justice and that every person is treated fairly under the law,” said Bonta, who would be the first Filipino-American to ever serve as the State’s top law enforcement officer.
The Attorney General leads the state’s Department of Justice’s 4,700 employees and prosecutes violations of state laws, defends state government agencies in court cases, and advises the state government on legal issues.
But another important issue under the control of the AG’s office is to investigate cases of police misconduct, one of the most controversial social issues facing our country after dozens of unarmed people have died while in police custody or in police shootings, leading to protests and riots in multiple cities.
Bonta’s appointment comes just a week after six Asian women were targeting in three shootings in Atlanta Georgia. Attacks and discrimination against Asians have increased during the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic that is suspected of originating in China. Former President Donald Trump repeatedly referred to the virus as the “China Flu”, contributing to the narrative that blamed Asians for the worldwide disease.
As a legislator, Bonta introduced two laws that made California a leader in criminal justice reform: a 2018 law that made the state the first in the country to eliminate money bail for suspects awaiting trial and replace it with a risk-assessment system; and a 2019 law that made California the first state in the nation to ban both private prisons and civil detention centers.
In 2019, Bonta also introduced a law to mandate an independent review of officer involved shootings by the California Department of Justice. As Attorney General, he will now implement the law he helped to pass.
First elected to the Alameda City Council in 2010, Bonta then ran for and won a seat in the California State Assembly in 2012. Prior to serving in elected office, Bonta was an Assistant City Attorney in San Francisco, as well as working for a large law firm where he helped the ACLU implement new protocols to prevent racial profiling by the California Highway Patrol.
Robert Andres Bonta born was born in Quezon City, Philippines, immigrated with his family to California after Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. Bonta’s family lived for a short time in a trailer on the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz ranch in Keene, California, that served as the United Farm Workers headquarters and the home of Cesar Chavez.
“Rob represents what makes California great – our desire to take on righteous fights and reverse systematic injustices,” Governor Newsom said. “Growing up with parents steeped in social justice movements, Rob has become a national leader in the fight to repair our justice system and defend the rights of every Californian. And most importantly, at this moment when so many communities are under attack for who they are and who they love, Rob has fought to strengthen hate crime laws and protect our communities from the forces of hate,” Newsom added.
Bonta was the third in a series of appointment made by Newsom as a result of the election of President Joe Biden.
In addition to the vacancy of Attorney General after Becerra’s appointment, Kamala Harris vacated her seat in the US Senate on the morning of her swearing-in as Vice-President. Newsom appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate seat. Padilla became the first Latino to ever represent California in the US Senate.
Padilla’s appointment left a vacant as Secretary of State which Newson filled by appointing San Diego Assemblywoman Dr. Shirley Weber. Weber became the first African-American to serve as the state’s top elections official. Her Assembly vacancy is being filled through a special election in April.