SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With the result of the presidential election still fresh on their minds, Democratic lawmakers in California piled back into the statehouse on the first day of the new legislative session Monday with an ax to grind. Vowing to fight against President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet of “bullies, bigots and billionaires,” they reiterated their intent to protect the Golden State’s immigrant population from an expected shift in federal policy.
“It is up to us to pass policies that would firewall Californians – and what we believe – from the cynical short-sighted and reactionary agenda that is rising in the wake of the election,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said during his swearing-in speech.
Rendon and other Democrats wasted little time before introducing legislation aimed at protecting the state’s most vulnerable population from an uncertain future.
“The election is over – thank God,” state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said while addressing his colleagues. “Now this body has been called to service at a pivotal – some would say portentous – moment in our state’s and our nation’s history.”
After finishing their opening speeches, De Leon and Rendon helped introduce a legislative package that would provide legal help to undocumented immigrants during deportation hearings and create regional centers to train defense attorneys and public defenders on immigration law.
Both chambers then quickly proposed and approved symbolic resolutions asking Trump to renege on his promise to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
“Immigrants are vital to many of California’s industries such as technology, health care, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic services,” the resolutions state. “Immigrants also represent a large percentage of small business owners and create economy prosperity and needed jobs for everyone.”
State Republicans accused the Democrats of purposely stoking tensions before Trump has even been inaugurated.
Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley painted the resolutions as “inflammatory” and urged the majority party to move on to more pressing issues, such as the spike in housing costs and California’s crumbling infrastructure.
“Today, Democrats stole a page out of President-elect Trump’s campaign playbook and pushed a rhetorical, divisive agenda designed to inflame tensions many of us seek to soothe,” Mayes said in a statement.
The uncertainty surrounding Trump’s presidency and immigration policy was also on the minds of Gov. Jerry Brown and his attorney general appointee, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra. Brown said he’s signed similar measures to Monday’s immigration proposals and that he will “look carefully” at them.
“I’m very supportive of the people of California and those who have come here more recently so I’ll take a good look at whatever [the Legislature] presents,” Brown said.
Brown introduced Becerra, 58, to reporters during a question-and-answer session at the governor’s office, also on Monday. Becerra, who will be the state’s first Latino attorney general if confirmed by the Legislature, said he wants to be sure he “gets the key to the car” before diving into California’s most pressing issues or warring with the new president-elect.
“We have elected leaders from the governor to state legislators here who are forward-leaning and I intend to be their chief counsel and law enforcement officer as they move forward,” Becerra said, deflecting a question on his willingness to enforce potential immigration-policy reforms.
The son of immigrant parents, Becerra said he hopes his historic appointment “opens up doors” for every Californian.
“My father would tell me stories as a younger man he couldn’t walk into a restaurant because of signs that said no dogs or Mexicans allowed,” Becerra said. “Now to have the chief law enforcement officer of the state of California be his son, I think it means we’re opening those doors now.”
While Becerra and Brown largely refrained from mentioning Trump, lawmakers weren’t shy. In a sharp dig at Trump aide Stephen Bannon that drew applause from the packed Assembly chambers, Rendon reiterated that “white nationalists and anti-Semites have no business working in the White House,” and that “if you are immigrant you are welcome here.”
He added, “California has always been a place where you can be whoever you are – and become whoever you dream of being. You have endorsed us with your vote and entrusted us with your future. And we will not let you down by backing down. Not now. Not ever.”
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