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Hillary Clinton in Iowa City.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke to a packed room in the Iowa City Public Library this afternoon, accusing Republicans of proposing a “U-turn” for the country and promising as president she would push for “comprehensive” immigration reform.

“A lot of our people who are working hard here are people who have earned the right to stay and we have to change our system to take advantage of their contributions,” Clinton said.

Clinton said there’s no way to deport up to 12 million undocumented immigrants and Clinton used the word “sad” to describe how Republican presidential candidates are addressing the issue.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on being a nation of immigrants…and then I hear, you know, the Republican candidates — and it’s not only, you know, the ones that are most vitriolic — none of them support a path to citizenship,” Clinton said. “All of them would basically consign immigrants to second-class status.”

Clinton did not directly mention Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks about Mexicans which have caused controversy, but Clinton, in general, accused Republicans of engaging in a “destructive” debate on immigration.

“And let’s face the fact we need comprehensive immigration reform,” Clinton said. “I don’t care how many people running for president on the Republican side try to demean immigrants, insult immigrants, cast aspersions on immigrants.”

During her speech to the crowd, Clinton mentioned the case of a popular Iowa City pastor who was recently deported and someone in the crowd asked her about the case, too. Clinton pledged as president she would deport criminals, but she’d urge prosecutors to use discretion in similar cases.

About 350 people made it into the library to see and hear Clinton, while about 100 more gathered on the sidewalk outside waiting for the chance to shake Clinton’s hand as she left. Clinton held a news conference inside the library after the event, joking with her staff that they should remove the “rope” behind which reporters and photographers were assembled. It was a reference to the image of Clinton’s press team using a rope to corral reporters following Clinton in a New Hampshire parade. Clinton’s staff removed the barrier and the questioning began.

(Photo by Asya Akca)