From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
DES MOINES, IA -- Clinton is probably glad she wasn't here at the Heartland Presidential Forum to hear the boos from one prominent group in attendance. Heavy booing by members of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a pro-immigration group based in Chicago, drowned out Clinton's phone response to a question from one of their members. Clinton spoke via phone because of ice storms here and her dealing with yesterday's hostage situation at one of her New Hampshire offices.
Asked by Coalition member Billy Lawless if she would address immigration reform during her first 100 days in office, Clinton did not offer a definite "yes," saying, "Well, you've got to get the Congress to pass the legislation." As hoots crescendoed from the rear of the room, she continued, "The president can do as much as possible, which I will do."
Coalition staff member Ricardo Serrano described the Chicago-based group as a pro-immigrant rights coalition of ethnic and service organizations throughout the state of Illinois. The organization has a heavy Hispanic representation but also includes members of European and Asian groups. Lawless, the man who asked the question that prompted the boos, is an Irish immigrant.
Serrano said that the group has galvanized around opposition to Illinois congressman Rahm Emmanuel, who "pulled a 180 on us" by failing on his promise to push comprehensive immigration reform through the Congress earlier this year. Serrano is concerned that Clinton's recent remarks on drivers' licenses for illegals -- on which he says she has "stumbled, if not completely backtracked" -- might indicate her willingness to brush off immigrant communities.
It's unclear if Clinton could hear the negative reaction over her telephone connection, which organizers explained was a one-way feed. Earlier in Clinton's address, a moderator explained to the crowd that Clinton couldn't hear prompting to cut off an answer that went over her two-minute limit.
"We respectfully request that you restrict your response to two minutes," clarified the moderator after the senator's first response.
"Yes ma'am," came Clinton's crackly response over the speakerphone.