In front of a heavily Latino crowd in East Los Angeles, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton on Thursday castigated Donald Trump for reiterating his controversial plans to deport millions of immigrants after he became the presumptive GOP nominee earlier this week.
"Every election is a choice," she said, noting that Trump "doubled down" on his plans to create a deportation force to round up people in the country illegally, to scrap President Obama's executive orders on immigration on his first day in office, and to build a giant wall on the southern border.
"The best way to prevent that from happening is to make sure he never gets near the White House," Clinton said.
Mariachis entertained the crowd of nearly 2,000 before Clinton spoke, and she was introduced by a college student who lived in fear of her mother being deported.
Surveying the crowd crammed into a stuffy college gym, Clinton declared that she could think of no better place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. She called for comprehensive immigration reform and a path for citizenship for those in the country illegally.
"We're going to end raids and round-ups. We're going to keep families together. We know we've got work to do but I think winning the election will really set that in motion, don't you?" Clinton said. "Also, not only will we work for comprehensive immigration reform, we have to recognize the kind of language coming from Donald Trump is hateful and we need to repudiate it."
The boisterous rally was Clinton's final public stop of the day. Earlier, she met with African American leaders and headlined a fundraiser hosted by Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar. The region's top Democratic officials turned out to support Clinton, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Reps. Xavier Becerra and Judy Chu, county Supervisor Hilda Solis, and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León.
Clinton is still embroiled in a primary fight with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she only publicly mentioned once on Thursday. Calling for party unity, she appeared to nudge Sanders to end his campaign by noting that she ended her 2008 bid once it became clear Obama would be the Democratic nominee.
"I did that when I pulled out in '08. Some of you remember," she said at the California African American Museum in the morning. The crowd of a few hundred murmured in agreement.
Clinton said she is more than three million votes and nearly 300 pledged delegates ahead of Sanders. In 2008, she said, she ended her campaign when she was about equal with Obama in the popular vote because the then-Illinois senator led her by about 60 pledged delegates.
"A much, much smaller margin than what we see in this race, but I knew that he had won, because it matters how many delegates you have," Clinton said. "So I withdrew, I endorsed him, I campaigned with him, I nominated him at the convention, I went to the floor of the convention and moved that he be nominated by acclimation, because I knew then that whatever differences we might have had in the campaign, they were nothing compared to the differences between us and the Republicans. Now if that was true in '08, that is true on steroids today."
A handful of Sanders supporters unsuccessfully tried to interrupt her evening speech, and scores more protested outside. Clinton, however, focused on a general-election argument by repeatedly skewering Trump, who became the presumptive GOP nominee as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich ended their presidential campaigns this week.
Clinton said Trump is dangerous and divisive and does not listen to people. He would wreck the economy, try to repeal the Affordable Care Act and would allow other nations to obtain nuclear weapons, she said.
"With all the challenges we face in America and the world, we can't have a loose cannon in the Oval Office," Clinton said. "That is a risk we cannot afford."
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