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Clinton to urge ‘full and equal path to citizenship’ for undocumented immigrants

Clinton is in Nevada Tuesday. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS -- Hillary Rodham Clinton will say Tuesday that any overhaul of the immigration system must include a way for undocumented immigrants to gain full citizenship.

"The standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship," Clinton's campaign said in a preview of remarks she is expected to give during a visit to a largely Hispanic high school here.

"She will say that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a second-class status," the campaign said.

The position draws a sharp distinction with most likely Republican contenders and puts Clinton on the left side of her own party. Her campaign did not spell out how Clinton would get to the goal of a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the United States.

Clinton’s reference to second-class status appears to be an effort to contrast herself most directly with former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The fluent Spanish speaker, whose wife is  Mexican-born, supports "earned legal status" for undocumented immigrants, although he has suggested he might support some citizenship options.

Clinton has focused on immigration and citizenship issues early in her three-week-old campaign, and with a frequency unusual for past Democratic candidates. Hispanics have voted largely Democratic for years, but concern that Clinton could be vulnerable to Bush among Hispanics may be part of the reason for the emphasis.

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton says, "We can't wait any longer," as she calls for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship during a Nevada campaign stop. (Video: Reuters)

She is making Nevada, where about one in four residents is Hispanic, her third campaign stop after Iowa and New Hampshire. The May 5 date -- Cinco de Mayo – is not a coincidence.

Like Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada holds one of the early presidential selection contests. The Nevada primary in 2016 will pose the first test of Clinton’s strength among Hispanic voters and her ability to re-create the winning Obama coalition of young people and minorities.

Clinton will join a roundtable at Rancho High School, which has a student body that is approximately 70 percent Hispanic, her campaign said.

Students she will meet were brought to the United States as children and would be eligible for the long-stalled Dream Act granting legal status to such children.

Clinton supports President Obama's 2012 executive order granting temporary legal protections to those eligible for the Dream Act. Obama blamed Republicans in Congress for blocking immigration reform and said he was going around them to allow conditional legal residency for an estimated 1.7 million undocumented immigrants.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, could be undone by a future president, however, so Hispanic leaders are urging both Democratic and Republican candidates to promise to extend the protection.

Clinton  “will talk about her commitment to fixing our broken immigration system by passing comprehensive immigration reform,” the campaign said. Her goal is a system that “provides a path to citizenship, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our border and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation’s prosperity,” the campaign said.

Although Clinton has so far outlined few specific platform positions, her campaign has made a point of spelling out her new position in support of granting driving licenses to undocumented people. That issue hurt her during the 2008 election when she appeared to waffle.

In Nevada, undocumented residents can get a “driver’s authorization card” if they pass the regular driver’s test, a measure designed to make the roads safer because such drivers know the laws and get insurance.