By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Democrat-controlled California are already laying the groundwork to fight President-elect Donald Trump’s conservative populist agenda.
On Monday, leaders of both houses of the legislature introduced measures to protect undocumented immigrants in the state from efforts by a Trump administration to deport them once the billionaire businessman takes office Jan. 20.
The bills followed closely on Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s nomination of U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra as attorney general, a high-ranking Democrat who challenged the incoming administration to “come at us” on such issues as climate change, immigration and worker protections.
“Immigrants are a part of California’s history, our culture, and our society,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, responding to Trump’s calls to deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
“We are telling the next Administration and Congress: if you want to get to them, you have to go through us.”
California voted decisively for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election, choosing the former first lady over Trump by 28 percentage points.
Democrats hold two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature, and every statewide office. The most populous U.S. state, California has more than 2.7 million undocumented immigrants – about 7 percent of its 39 million population.
Brown’s nomination of Becerra last week positions the state to fight back against efforts to weaken progressive policies with a reliably progressive attorney general steeped in the ways of Washington.
On its first day back from recess on Monday the legislature passed resolutions urging Trump to abandon his deportation promise, and introduced two bills aimed at protecting immigrants.
One measure would set up a fund to pay for lawyers for immigrants facing deportation. Another would train criminal defense attorneys in immigration law.
At a news conference on Monday, Brown and Becerra avoided antagonistic language about Trump.
But both men promised to protect the state’s interests.
“I don’t think California is out there to pick fights,” Becerrra said. “But we certainly will stand up for the rights that we do have.”
The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Republican leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley criticized the legislature’s moves.
“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.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Andrew Hay)