Clinton Tells 'Dreamers' She Backs Path To Citizenship Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton went to a high school in Las Vegas on Tuesday and said it was time to provide immigrants in the country illegally with a path to citizenship.

Clinton Tells 'Dreamers' She Backs Path To Citizenship

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, she would draw a dramatic contrast with Republicans. Consider illegal immigration. Many Republicans have said that, if elected, they would reverse President Obama's executive actions. That includes his moves to give legal status to millions of the undocumented. They include Dreamers, brought to the United States by their parents when they were kids. Meeting with a group of Dreamers, Hillary Clinton vowed to defend their new status. Here's NPR's Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hillary Clinton went to a high school at the heart of the growing Latino community in Las Vegas and said it was time to provide immigrants in the country illegally with a path to citizenship. But she didn't stop there, staking out positions on immigration that put her to the left of President Obama and the controversial executive actions he took last fall.

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HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: I will fight to stop partisan attacks on the executive actions that would put Dreamers, including those with us today, at risk of deportation. And if Congress continues to refuse to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.

KEITH: Twenty-two-year-old Juan Salazar sat in the high school's library with Clinton, wearing a blue dress shirt and tie. And he told her he worried his parents could be deported. Salazar came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 7 years old. Now he's a business owner.

JUAN SALAZAR: I service pools. So (laughter) if anybody has a pool, give me a call.

KEITH: Seven hours earlier, he was in the backyard of a home in North Las Vegas, wearing work boots and cleaning a pool.

After high school, with the recession raging, Salazar and his dad worked for a landscaping company, getting paid less than minimum wage.

SALAZAR: Getting paid $6 an hour and working...

KEITH: That's not minimum wage.

SALAZAR: It's not. But, I mean, being undocumented, you can't really say anything because you're afraid.

KEITH: Then, in 2012, President Obama announced his executive action for Dreamers like Salazar, letting them stay in the country and get work permits.

SALAZAR: Once I passed, all my family members started calling me - my aunts, my grandma - crying. It was like, now is your chance, and, you know, take on the world and stuff.

KEITH: He started his pool cleaning business right away, and it just kept growing. Now he services 40 pools and says he'll probably have to bring on an employee soon. Salazar fires up a pump to pull water and gunk from the bottom of the pool and reflects on his biggest worry. When President Obama announced his expanded executive actions on immigration in November, he offered parents of U.S. citizen children a chance to temporarily avoid deportation and get work permits. But people like Salazar's parents were left out because none of their children were born in this country.

SALAZAR: My dad was very upset because everyone watching the TV, just glued, for hope - hopeful for an opportunity now. And so it was very sad that my parents couldn't qualify.

KEITH: Back in the school library, Clinton sought to reassure him.

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CLINTON: Juan, the fact that you're so worried about your parents, I mean, I will certainly try to do everything I can to, you know, avoid family breakup, avoid the kind of terrible experience that too many families have already gone through.

KEITH: Clinton said as president she would put in place a system for parents of Dreamers and others to avoid deportation. If the young activists had come into their meeting with Clinton with a wish list, she knocked item after item off of it. Astrid Silva, another Dreamer, says this wasn't what they were expecting.

ASTRID SILVA: We came prepared with our tough questions, and she answered them.

KEITH: But activists like Silva have heard plenty of promises from politicians over the years, and only some of them have been kept.

SILVA: Words are wonderful, but until my parents have that fear lifted that they're not going to be deported, we can only continue fighting.

KEITH: Clinton's critics on both the left and the right point out her positions on immigration have changed over the years. One GOP candidate accused her of pandering. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Las Vegas.

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