By Mike Blake
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Hillary Clinton fought on two fronts in California on Saturday as she sought to wrap up her battle with Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, taking aim at him and at Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, with attacks on their immigration stances.
Both Clinton and Sanders campaigned across California, stopping in immigrant communities, big cities and the agricultural heartland on the final weekend before Tuesday’s primary in the nation’s biggest state.
Clinton used a stop at a Los Angeles-area college to criticize Trump for making “hateful, very prejudicial” statements about immigrants and Sanders for voting against a 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“I was in the Senate then, so was President Obama and so was Senator Sanders. President Obama and I voted for it, Senator Sanders voted against it. And that ended it,” Clinton said.
“It was heartbreaking,” she added.
Latinos comprise almost 40 percent of California’s population of roughly 39 million.
Clinton, also a former secretary of state, is expected to sew up the party nomination on Tuesday, when California is one of six state holding nominating contests. Except for Washington, D.C., those states are holding the last Democratic nominating contests before the party’s July convention. Clinton needs a win in heavily Democratic California to begin unifying her party.
Though Sanders, a U.S. senator of Vermont, faces nearly insurmountable odds to become the Democratic nominee, he has invested heavily in California, where a win could pressure the party to adopt some of the populist policies that have driven his campaign.
Polls show Sanders has chipped away at Clinton’s lead in the state, where Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have built a vast network of supporters, including increasingly powerful Hispanic voters.
Recent tracking polls showed Clinton having a 2 to 10 percentage point lead over Sanders in California.
At a town hall in Los Angeles, Sanders promised to fight for comprehensive immigration reform and said that trade deals, over which he and Clinton have frequently sparred, funnel “cheap corn” into Mexico and “drive small family farmers off their land.”
California is home to one-fourth of the immigrant population in the United States, at around 10 million people, and also home to one-fourth of the 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Clinton, with 2,312 delegates, needs 71 more to reach the required 2,383 for the Democratic nomination. Sanders has 1,545. California, the most populous U.S. state, has 548 delegates who are awarded proportionately to the popular vote.
The other states holding nominating contests on June 7 are Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Clinton also slammed Trump on immigration at a rally in Oxnard, a city of about 200,000 located northwest of Los Angeles that is almost 75 percent Hispanic.
Trump on Friday escalated his attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit involving fraud at a failed Trump business, Trump University. Trump suggested that Curiel’s Mexican-American heritage was influencing his opinion on the lawsuit. Curiel was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants.
“This is not just another outlandish insulting comment from Donald Trump and it is not normal politics, this is something much, much more dangerous,” Clinton said.
“Judge Curiel is just as much of an American as I am and just as much of an American as Donald Trump is,” Clinton said.
The New York billionaire businessman has vowed to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
(Writing by Amanda Becker; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)