On Cinco de Mayo this year, I sat down in a Las Vegas high school to meet with young Latinos—DREAMers who came to this country as young children with their parents.
Their memories are here in America. Their hopes for the future are here in America. They are as American as my daughter Chelsea and my new baby granddaughter Charlotte—raised with the same love for family and community, the same devotion to public service, the same commitment to giving back that my parents instilled in me when I was young.
The political debate over immigration has never been easy. But I left that room thinking that if folks in their living rooms and politicians on Capitol Hill could just hear these young people—their passion, their love for this country, their dreams of building businesses or becoming doctors or practicing law—well, the debate would be over. We’d have had a solution yesterday.
But I didn’t expect that this summer, the Republican primary would come to seem less like a competition for the highest office in the land and more like a race to see who can make the most hostile, outlandish, vitriolic claims about the immigrant community.
I won’t repeat their comments here. I will only say: America is better than this. I know we’re better than this. We know we’re better than this.
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Next year’s election puts our country at a crossroads. Will we continue to be a country that is proud of our immigrant heritage? That continues to welcome the struggling, the striving, and the successful to our shores? That continues to offer unparalleled opportunities and freedoms to all? Or will we make among the biggest mistakes we could by turning our backs on the world and allowing hatred to turn into policy?
I know where I stand.
I stand with America Ferrera, who can make us laugh but also make us think, and who was among the first to speak out against this political season’s hateful rhetoric.
I stand with Jorge Ramos, who was shouted over and removed from a press conference for trying to do his job as a journalist.
I stand with Dolores Huerta, who has fought tirelessly for worker’s rights and inspires us to accept nothing less than justice for all.
I stand with Maria Hinojosa, who founded the Futuro Media Group to tell stories of the overlooked and underrepresented.
I stand with Pat Mora, who has broadened countless children’s horizons and imaginations through El Dia de los Libros.
I stand with Edward Avila, the son of a factory worker and a cobbler, who is working to expand opportunities for Latino entrepreneurs in technology.
I stand with Astrid and Juan, with Rafael and Blanca, and all the other DREAMers in Las Vegas and everywhere who want nothing more than to become full-fledged citizens of this country they have lived in and loved for their entire lives—and to help make America work again for all of us.
I stand with every family who wants to come out of the shadows, every mother who wants a better future for her children, every son and daughter born in the United States who fears for their parents.
I stand with you.
As President, I will fight to fix our broken immigration system and pass comprehensive immigration reform. I will defend President Obama’s executive actions protecting DREAMers and the parents of citizen children, and will seek to go beyond them.
But above all, I will always stand with the Latino community—on immigration and job creation, education and environmental protection. Because when we stand together against those who would seek to divide us, and fight together against those who would seek to take us backward, and when we make our communities and our families strong, we make America strong.
* This op-ed also appeared in Spanish on UnivisionNoticias.com.
HIllary Clinton is a Democratic candidate for president and former secretary of state.