* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
SAN ANTONIO — Emphasizing her early activism in South Texas, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton rallied supporters here Thursday with a promise to continue the work she started in the state more than four decades ago.
“I owe the people of South Texas a lot,” the former secretary of state said. “You taught me so much. You opened your homes. You believed in me. You worked hard for me. I’m running for president to work hard for you."
Clinton’s speech inside a sun-soaked pavilion here marked her first campaign event in Texas and the kick-off of Latinos for Hillary, a monthslong effort to energize Hispanic voters. Prior to her remarks, Clinton officially received the endorsement of Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio who currently heads the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
As Clinton spoke, no theme was more dominant than her efforts to register voters in South Texas as a law student in the 1970s. Her remarks were filled with local references, including the indulgences she shared with then-boyfriend Bill Clinton, the future president: green enchiladas, Shiner Bock beer and mango ice cream.
More seriously, Hillary Clinton tied the experience to her vow to beat back what she says are moves by the GOP to restrict access to the ballot box, the topic of a speech she gave earlier this year in Houston.
"I'm not telling any secrets up here. Republicans are doing everything they can in this state to make it harder for people to vote," Clinton said. "I have a very different philosophy. It's the one that led me to knock on those doors in the Valley and to walk on the streets of San Antonio. I want you to be able to vote, no matter who you vote for, and as president, I will fight any effort by anyone anywhere to disenfranchise" voters.
Clinton offered Texans a laundry list of campaign promises — from raising the minimum wage to making college more affordable — but immigration drew the strongest reaction from the heavily Hispanic crowd. She pledged to defend President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, fight any effort to deport the children of people in the country illegally and "go even further" than Obama if Congress does not cooperate. Comprehensive immigration reform, she added, "must have a path to full and equal citizenship. ... Anything less than that means second-class status."
"You're not strangers. You're not intruders. You're our neighbors, our friends, our families," Clinton said, criticizing her Republican rivals for what she characterized as inflammatory rants against illegal immigration.
Addressing another issue that charged up the crowd, Clinton vowed to tackle gun violence by rallying a national movement against the National Rifle Association. Her remarks on the topic included a thinly veiled jab at Bernie Sanders, her chief rival for the Democratic nomination who said at a debate Tuesday that "all the shouting in the world" will not keep guns out of the wrong hands.
"Now, I've been told by some, 'Quit talking about this, quit shouting about this,'" Clinton said. "Well, I'll tell you right now, I will not be silenced, and we will not be silenced."
Before the rally at Sunset Station in downtown San Antonio, Clinton participated in a Q&A with Javier Palomarez, the head of the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In the interview, she addressed speculation that Castro could serve as her running mate, saying she plans to "really look hard at him for anything."