WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Just two weeks to the day before she is certain to accept the nomination for president, Hillary Clinton rallied a roomful of supportive Latinos declaring, “You are not intruders.”
Clinton, on track to be nominated July 28 at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, called on Latinos to “come back twice as strong and twice as clear” against the message of the GOP’s presumptive nominee Donald Trump, which she described as “you should be afraid.”
“You are not intruders. You are our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, our families. You make our nation stronger, smarter more creative,” Clinton said at the League of United Latin American Citizens conference.
Clinton cited the example of Patrick Zamarripa, the Dallas police officer gunned down last Thursday along with seven other officers, five of whom were killed including Zamrripa. Zamarripa’s family had told media he was very proud of his Mexican heritage.
“I want you to know, I see you," said Clinton to cheers. "I hear you and I am with you.”
Clinton repeated some of the pledges she’s made on the campaign trail, including that she would in her first 100 days in office introduce legislation for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
She said it was one of her top two priorities along with investment in jobs and whether it gets done “depends on this election.”
A Clinton campaign staffer told NBC News Latino that although nothing is yet written, conversations have begun on the immigration bill that would be drafted.
The pledge is critical to Clinton’s wooing Latinos who were disappointed when President Barack Obama failed to send an immigration bill to Congress early in his first term. He had made a similar promise in his campaign, to have an immigration bill in his first year.
The president can’t introduce the bill but if elected, Clinton could provide a draft to a member or members in Congress to introduce, as other presidents have done in the past.
“I will send a proposal to Congress that will include a path to citizenship, fix the family visa backlog and strengthen our economy — and while we are doing that we must do all we can to keep families already here together,” she said.
Clinton accentuated that message at the end of her speech when she was joined onstage by a group of people, including some who are immigrants who have lived in the country illegally since they were children, holding up signs that said "I Am An American."
In a statement, the Republican Party criticized Clinton's immigration proposals, which include support for Obama's authorization of programs to defer deportations and provide work permits to millions of immigrants not legally in the U.S.
"Her support for President Obama’s lawless executive overreach to fix our broken immigration system clearly shows that she has zero intention of working with Congress or respecting our Constitution in solving the issue," RNC spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré said in the statement.
Clinton's immigration message and her call for closing the gender pay gap struck a chord with Frank Arredondo, 69, of San Marcos, Texas, a LULAC council member.
"I have daughter. I have a wife. I have lots of nieces and I want them to earn 100 percent of the dollar that a man does. It's past time that women are subservient not only in manner, but also economically," Arredondo said. "Women can far outdo what men can do —I don't believe that anything gets done without a woman. Mama ain't happy, nobody's happy."
Bernie Sanders, who spoke to LULAC on Wednesday, endorsed Clinton this week.
Housing Secretary Julián Castro spoke later at the conference and Labor Secretary Tom Perez was to speak on Friday. Both have been named as possible Clinton running mates.
After his speech, Castro, who has been a campaign trail surrogate for Clinton, was stopped in a hallway behind the hotel ballroom by LULAC attendees who wanted photos with him. Actress Rosie Perez, who was to receive an award for her activism from LULAC Friday night and is a Clinton supporter, asked for one as well.
A "wow" could be heard when Castro told his audience that the most common age among non-Hispanic whites is 56, but that among Latinos it is 9.
“As the future of those young Latinos goes, so goes the future of America, so we have to give every person the chance to fully contribute to our nation’s great story," Castro said.
Separately, Castro and Perez spoke to the Senate Democratic Latino Summit at the Capitol earlier Thursday.
Perez, giving one of his usual fast-paced speeches, paused mid-sentence to say "bless you" to someone in the audience of mostly young Capitol staffers who sneezed and then added, "Bless all of you for that matter."
"I come to you today with unrelenting optimism," Perez told the young staffers. "You're hungry for an America that works for everybody.