WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told voters in Nevada that she would address immigration reform in the first 100 days of her presidency.
“This is at the top of the list," Clinton said during an MSNBC/Telemundo town hall, two days before Nevada's Democratic caucus. "It's going to be introduced, and then I'm going to work as hard as I can to make sure we get it moved through the congressional process. I can control the introduction of legislation, but Congress has to get its act in gear. That's why we need to elect a Democratic senate so we have some friends.”
Clinton’s comments marked a more aggressive embrace of immigration reform. A few months ago, the Democratic presidential front-runner, while pledging to provide a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, wouldn't commit to making it a priority in her first 100 days if she wins office.
Clinton’s campaign on Thursday released a new ad in Nevada featuring a powerful moment between the candidate and a young girl whose parents are at risk of deportation. Also Thursday, Clinton was endorsed by the Latino Victory Fund, a super PAC that promotes Latino voter outreach and political participation.
Immigration dominated the discussion at the town hall, the last major forum for Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) before voters caucus on Saturday. Latino voters make up a substantial portion of Nevada's Democratic electorate.
Sanders similarly pledged to make immigration reform “a top priority,” and on Thursday repeated his pledge that he would pursue it in the first 100 days of his presidency.
"I'm not a dictator here. It has to do with a little bit of cooperation from the Congress," Sanders said. "But, it is a major priority when you have 11 million people living in the shadows. I think we owe it to them to move as expeditiously as we can. If Congress does not act, I will continue President Obama's efforts to use executive powers."
Sanders also promised to change the Obama administration’s controversial deportation policies, saying that he would only deport violent criminals.
“My own view is that our policy as a nation, and what I believe, is we should unite families, not divide families,” Sanders said. “We should not be sending people back to a country that they can barely wear and a language they may not be able to speak.”
Both Democratic candidates faced questions about their past record on immigration. Voters pointed out that Clinton in 2007 opposed giving drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants, and that Sanders voted against the 2007 immigration reform bill because it contained a guest worker program he was against.
Clinton reassured voters that she has since reversed her position.
“Back then, it was a state-by-state determination, and I'm happy that most states have moved in the right direction, but what we have to do now is get to comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” Clinton said.