Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMeghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' Hill: Trump reelection would spur 'one constitutional crisis after another' Trump defends indicted GOP congressman MORE on Thursday sought to build on her support among Hispanic voters while ripping Republicans for opposing immigration reform, singling out Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE for his controversial remarks about illegal immigrants.
At a question-and-answer session at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in San Antonio, Texas — an event that was initially supposed to feature Trump — Clinton said that this week’s Democratic presidential debate stood in contrast to the “prejudice and paranoia” that she heard at the Republican debates.
Later, Clinton said Trump’s rhetoric on illegal immigrants gave racists cover to act on their prejudices.
“We have to make changes in policy and attitude, and call people out when they engage with language that gives cover to those who want to act in a biased way,” Clinton added. “Call people out when they say Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals. Someone needs to say basta! Enough. Don’t do that.”
Clinton has been hammering the Republican front-runner for comments he made at his presidential launch speech in June that illegal immigrants entering the country are rapists and other criminals.
She has sought to tie the entire GOP field to Trump’s remarks, and Democrats will surely use the comments as they seek to win over Hispanic voters in the general election. President Obama received about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.
Clinton on Thursday also blasted the GOP on immigration reform, calling Republicans “wrong-headed and mean-spirited” on the issue.
Clinton pledged to defend Obama’s executive actions on immigration and said she would go further by cutting back on deportations and by setting up a streamlined approach for immigrant families to receive protection from deportation.
“It’s important that we start with a different premise than what we’re hearing from the Republican presidential candidates,” Clinton said. “Comprehensive immigration reform, where we bring people out of the shadows will be good for the economy. [Republicans are] worried it will depress wages and take jobs away from folks, but that’s not how it works. ... If we can get people out of the shadows, then our labor market will be more efficient, and undocumented workers will not be exploited, which does drive down wages.”
Clinton said as president she would be concerned with “knocking down the barriers” faced by Hispanic small-business owners, and women in particular. She said her policies would “support Hispanic families by creating jobs, raising wages, improving education, and dealing with healthcare.”
It was friendly terrain for Clinton, who received a warm reception from the audience.
Chamber President Javier Palomarez lauded Clinton for her “courageous approach” to immigration reform and closed by saying he was “immensely proud” to be seated next to her.
Earlier in the day, Clinton hosted a Texas Latinos for Hillary campaign event in San Antonio, which the campaign said was part of the “ongoing effort to build an organization outside of the four early states.”
She also received the endorsement of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (D), a former mayor of San Antonio and a potential vice presidential candidate.
Hispanic Democrats have largely stuck by Clinton during the rise of her closest challenger, Bernie SandersBernie SandersUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE.
According to a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released late last month, Clinton’s favorability among all voters was 8 points underwater. However, Hispanic voters maintained an overwhelmingly positive view of her, with 53 percent saying they viewed her favorably, compared to 21 percent who had a negative view of her.
Sanders, who hails from Vermont, one of the whitest states in the country, has low name identification among nonwhite voters. While Sanders has gained on Clinton nationally, he’s been unable to break into her minority stronghold.
Earlier this month, Sanders spoke at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual Public Policy Conference. Afterward, he acknowledged that many Hispanics don’t know who he is.
"Let me be very honest with you, I come from a state, the state of Vermont, [and] it's a small state; there aren't a lot of Latino people," he said, according to The Huffington Post. “What we are trying very, very hard to do -- you are going to see us moving very aggressively in that area -- is introduce myself to the Latino community. I will fight for every vote I can get in the Latino community."
Thursday’s Hispanic Chamber event was also notable because Clinton replaced Trump, who pulled out after a dispute with the group. The Chamber said Trump was “unwilling to abide by the terms and conditions” of the Q&A format.
Trump said he never committed to attending the event, and he accused the group of seeking to shake him down for money and capitalize on his celebrity.