Clinton says immigrants deserve citizenship, 'not second class status,' during NYC speech

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Hillary Clinton focused mainly on American prosperity during a speech Saturday on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, but the Democratic presidential candidate did make room to offer up her views on immigration reform.

While she didn’t go in to specifics during her 45-minute speech, Clinton did say that law abiding immigrants should be offered a path to citizenship, "not second class status," and criticized her Republican counterparts for supporting stricter immigration measures.

"They want to put immigrants who work hard and pay taxes at risk of deportation," Clinton said to the crowd of a few thousand people gathered in New York City.

Before Clinton took the stage, her campaign brought out Andrea Gonzales to make some remarks about why the young immigrant supports the Democratic candidate.

Gonzales, a DREAMer from Houston, Texas, was accompanied by her mother at the event and traveled to New York City because she believes Clinton will fight to protect and expand opportunities for families like hers.

In the first major speech of her second campaign for president, Clinton portrayed herself as a fierce advocate for those left behind after the recession.

She cited President Barack Obama, and former Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton, her husband, and said they embraced the idea that "real and lasting prosperity must be built by all and shared by all."

Her campaign said her "tenacious fighter" message will form the foundation of the 2016 White House race. She also gave a nod at the start of her address to the prospect she would be the first woman elected to the White House.

Clinton told the crowd on Roosevelt Island that she was glad to be with them "in a place with absolutely no ceilings."

Eager and excited Democrats began assembling hours before they heard from the candidate.

Marc Markley of New York said he showed up at 2:30 a.m. and waited in the dark for the gates to open, with only a police officer for company.

"I was about to fall asleep earlier, but now it's totally worth it," he said. "I can't wait to get inside."

Those arriving were greeted by campaign manager Robby Mook, who took an all-hands-on-deck approach to the event by hawking merchandise — a role typically assigned to a low-level staffer or volunteer.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our rally today," Mook called out to the crowd filtering into Four Freedoms park, before directing them to a table selling campaign T-shirts and other campaign-branded gear. "Thanks for being here — and buy some products."

On Friday, the Clinton campaign released a video on Friday detailing her four decades in public service, starting with her work as a young lawyer at the Children's Defense Fund.

After the Saturday speech, Clinton planned to visit early-voting states, with events focused on her relationship with her mother and her father's background as a veteran and small businessman.

"You have to get up off the floor and you keep fighting," Clinton says in the video, discussing her failed 1993 attempt to overhaul the nation's health care system during her husband's administration. "Everyday Americans need a champion."

While Clinton has spoken out strongly on immigration and other issues important to parts of the Democratic base, she has been reticent on other policy questions that have divided the party, among them a trade deal with Pacific Rim nations. Obama backs it. Organized labor, liberals and others say it would cost U.S. jobs.

On Friday, dozens of union-backed House Democrats voted down a critical part of Obama's trade agenda, negotiating authority that would let him propose trade agreements that Congress could accept or reject, but not amend.

Clinton did not offer specific policy proposals in her speech. Aides said that would come in the following weeks on issues that include college affordability, jobs and the economy.

Clinton was joined by her husband and daughter Chelsea at the rally. It was the first time the family had been seen together in public since Clinton began her campaign in April, and the crowd chanted "Bill! Bill! Bill!" when she introduced him.

"Oh, that will make him so happy," Clinton said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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