Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a campaign rally for Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Democratic nominee for Maryland governor, at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., on Oct. 30, 2014.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Hillary Clinton heckled by immigration activists

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland – Immigration activists repeatedly interrupted former secretary of state Hillary Clinton Thursday as she campaigned here for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor as a Democrat.

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“Immigration is an important issue,” she replied, after the first wave of protesters heckled her. “If you had just given me a minute, I would have gotten to the DREAM Act,” Clinton continued after first trying to speak over their shouts. 

The hundreds of college students gathered in the Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland rallied behind Clinton, chanting “Hilllary! Hillary!” to drown out the protesters. They booed when another wave of activists began to interrupt the likely presidential candidate’s speech.

The former senator noted that she sponsored the bill in the Senate, which would give rights to the children of undocumented immigrants. And she called for “equal opportunity for students who work and study hard regardless of their parent’s immigration status.”

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But three more waves of interruptions followed, spaced a few minutes apart. Police shut down each interruption quickly, pulling demonstrators outside the auditorium. 

So-called DREAMers, young, undocumented immigrants, have become a semi-regular thorn in Clinton’s side, heckling her at several events in recent months as she’s campaigned for Democrats and promoted her book. But Thursday’s interruptions were the largest yet, involving at least a dozen protesters affiliated with the group United We Dream interrupting her speech at least four times.

MSNBC Live with José Díaz-Balart, 9/15/14, 10:22 AM ET

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The group had heard that Clinton might come out for executive action on deportation relief during the speech, according to a spokesperson, but was disappointed when she did not. “Its NOT about #ImmigrationReform its about [Hillary Clinton] demanding action from Obama,” United We Dream co-founder Julieta Garibay tweeted to msnbc.

But the rest of the overwhelmingly young crowd was eager to hear from Clinton, sending up a raucous applause when Brown introduced her as “Charlotte’s grandmother.”

Clinton stuck mostly to familiar themes about the need to empower of women empower and make the economy work for everyone. But she also took a moment to praise Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is laying the groundwork for his own presidential campaign, ticking off a list of progressive accomplishments he’s made with Brown during their administration.

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O’Malley sings and plays guitar in a Celtic rock band, so Clinton used a musical analogy to praise him and Brown. “He’s gotten the legislature and the people to sing along for eight years, and the melody is terrific,” Clinton said.

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Brown, a former member of the House of Delegates who attended Harvard Law School with Barack Obama and spent 30 years in the Army, was effusive in his praise for Clinton. “I can’t tell you how excited I am that Hillary has come to join us. For a lifetime, she’s been breaking the glass ceiling as she’s climbed the ladder of success. And what I admire most, is that she knows the importance of looking back and reaching back and making sure that ladder of opportunity stands erect,” he said. 

Clinton was supposed to headline a fundraiser for Brown last month, but had to cancel last minute due to the birth of her granddaughter, Charlotte. She sent her husband, Bill, the former president in her stead. 

Brown is in a tight race with Republican Larry Hogan, demonstrated by the fact that both Clintons and both Obamas have campaigned for Brown. Big-name surrogates have also come in for Hogan, including likely 2016 presidential candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

O’Malley, meanwhile, was forced to play second fiddle in his own state, both to his lieutenant governor and to the woman whom he might challenge for the Democratic nomination in 2016. “Secretary Hillary Clinton is here in the building!” O’Malley said. “She has served our country so very well, as first lady, as senator, and as secretary of state.”

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After his short remarks, the governor said he was going to step off stage and let the band play for a moment, “and then we’re going to bring up the people you came here to see: Anthony Brown and Hillary Clinton!”

Dream Act, Hillary Clinton, Immigration Reform and Maryland

Hillary Clinton heckled by immigration activists