Published Thursday, June 18, 2015 | 11:55 a.m.
Updated Thursday, June 18, 2015 | 5:20 p.m.
In a speech highlighting her platforms on education and immigration, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton outlined a progressive agenda that includes more education funding for preschool programs and universal voter registration for 18-year-olds.
The speech focused on two policy areas of significance to Nevada, which has a growing Latino population and one of the worst public education systems in the country.
She delivered her address today to a crowd of more than 600 at a gathering of the nonpartisan National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The conference is being held at the Aria on the Las Vegas Strip.
Clinton called for expanding funding for preschool programs and Head Start, an early childhood education and health program for low-income families that she helped create as first lady to President Bill Clinton.
She said education initiatives that focus on the youngest students are a bridge for bringing people out of poverty.
“All of our kids need the opportunity to get off the to the best possible start, but too many children are getting behind,” she said.
Clinton voiced support for President Barack Obama’s plan to provide free community college to low-income students and said she would unveil her own proposal in the coming weeks.
She repeated calls for universal voter registration.
“We should be making it easier to vote, not putting up barriers that disempower and disenfranchise Americans,” she said. “Who are those barriers aimed at: young people, poor people and people of color.”
She also said she supports Obama’s executive actions to provide quasi-citizenship and to offer work permits for undocumented immigrants. Obama’s actions followed a congressional impasse on immigration reforms proposed by Senate lawmakers in 2013.
“If Congress continues to refuse to act, I will do everything under the law to go further than what President Obama has attempted to achieve,” she said.
The event marked Clinton’s second trip in less than two months to Nevada, a swing state in presidential elections that has sided with the eventual winner in 31 out of the last 38 elections.
The Latino voting bloc — about 15 percent of registered voters in Nevada — could give Democrats the numbers they need to beat Republicans at the polls. There are about 215,000 registered Latino voters in Nevada. In 2012, more than 80 percent of Latino voters statewide cast ballots for Democrats.
Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, won 64 percent of Nevada’s Latino vote in the 2008 Democratic caucus when she ran for president. Obama got 26 percent. Nevada was the only state Clinton won in the Democratic primary season.
During the 2008 race, Clinton proposed providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And she has a record in the Senate of supporting immigration reform.
Clinton cosponsored legislation to create a path to citizenship for young people brought into the country as children. She was also one of two cosponsors of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 2004 SOLVE Act, which would have modified visa programs and immigration enforcement procedures.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials represents more than 6,000 Latino officials nationwide, and its conference has been a launching pad for presidential candidates.
Democrat presidential hopeful Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will speak at the conference on Friday.
Only one Republican spoke at the conference — presidential candidate Ben Carson. All major candidates were invited.
To follow her speech, the Republican National Committee, a group that raises money for GOP congressional candidates nationwide, released an early look at a Spanish-language ad campaign it’s launching. The video shows clips and soundbites of Clinton’s multiple stances on immigration over the years. Some clips have Clinton saying that “illegal immigrants” should be deported or not offered jobs — an opposite position of where Clinton now stands.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus released a statement saying that Clinton is “only looking out for her own political ambition.”
"As she has proven time and again, Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected — making big promises she won’t and can’t keep, just like President Obama,” Priebus said in the statement.