Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton intends to draw an early distinction with Republicans on illegal immigration, pointing to a pathway to citizenship as an essential part of any overhaul in Congress.
Clinton was laying the foundation of her immigration agenda Tuesday in her first stop in Nevada since launching her presidential campaign. After years of delays in Congress, Latinos and immigration activists are watching Clinton’s statements closely for signs of how she might break a legislative logjam on immigration and whether she would extend President Barack Obama’s executive actions to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.
“We hope that she leans in and really issues a challenge on the issue,” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, deputy vice president of the National Council of La Raza.
Clinton has backed Obama’s unsuccessful pitch for a comprehensive immigration overhaul, including a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, and supported his announcement last year halting deportations of certain immigrants.
The issue could be pivotal in the 2016 presidential race. Obama received strong support from Hispanic voters during his two presidential bids and immigration turned into a stumbling block for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who received only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012 and struggled in battleground states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada where Latinos are influential.
Clinton was meeting with young people at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, where about 70 percent of the student body is Hispanic.
Previewing her remarks, Clinton’s campaign said she would say that a true fix to the nation’s immigration system would need to include a “full and equal path to citizenship” and the nation shouldn’t settle for proposals that would provide hard-working people with a “second-class” status.
Republicans sought to portray Clinton as opportunistic on the issue.
“Obviously she’s pretty good at pandering and flipping and flopping and doing and saying anything she needs to say,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus at an event with Hispanic Republicans in Denver.