By Amanda Becker and Steve Holland
PALO ALTO, Calif./NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashed on Thursday over who would make a better president for the country's minorities, with each accusing the other of posing a threat to the interests of blacks and Latinos.
Clinton needs to hold on to minority support to beat her Republican rival in the Nov. 8 election and was set on Thursday to deliver a speech blasting him as a divisive candidate stoking racist groups.
Trump has polled poorly with minorities but lately has tried to broaden his appeal to them, hinting at a softening of his hard-line position on immigration. In an appearance in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday he had called Clinton a "bigot" who would do nothing to help blacks.
"We’ve always had great relationships with the African American community and I’ve made it such a focal point," Trump said on Thursday before a meeting at his New York headquarters with black and Hispanic Republicans. "They have really been let down by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats."
Trump has been heavily criticized by minorities for his proposals on immigration, which include deporting millions of undocumented foreigners, building a wall along the Mexican border, and suspending Muslim immigration to shore up national security. But recently he has suggested he could soften those positions.
In comments broadcast on Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump said he would be willing to work with immigrants who have abided by U.S. laws while living in the country, backing away from his insistence during the primaries that he would try to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
He said on Thursday he would deliver an immigration speech detailing his updated positions at a later date, after canceling previous plans to address the issue.
The softening comes as Trump hopes to erode some of Clinton's strong support with Hispanic and black voters, a central part of his campaign message for the past two weeks.
Clinton was set to hit back on Thursday afternoon in Nevada, a state with a heavy Hispanic population, with a speech that a top aide said would criticize Trump's "divisive and dystopian vision."
Aides said Clinton will link Trump's statements about immigration and religion to the rise of a political fringe movement in the U.S. known as the "alternative right," which opposes multiculturalism and immigration.
When asked by CNN to respond to Trump's charge that she was a bigot, Clinton said he was "taking a hate movement mainstream."
"He's brought it into his campaign," she said. "He's bringing it to our communities and our country. I will have more to say about this tomorrow."
(Writing by Ginger Gibson; Reporting by Amanda Becker in Palo Alto, California and Steve Holland in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)