Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series that features leading Latino politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.

Listen to the Unedited "Turnout" Interview with Libre Initiative Executive Director Daniel Garza: 

With the 2016 presidential election slowly gaining speed, one organization has been engaging with the Latino community founded on principles of economic freedom.

The Libre Initiative was founded in 2011 and is labeled as a "501(c)4 non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization." Its executive director, Daniel Garza, told Latin Post that Libre Initiative has expanded the conversation within the Latino community, specifically the diversity of the free markets, self-reliance, personal responsibility and moving away from government programs.

"While there's a role for government, it should be a limited role, and that we seek to look to our own talents and our own skills to advance in the marketplace," said Garza, who identified the current federal government as "more involved than it should be." He recognized that the current U.S. economy is a "mixed economy," where the government has meddled in business, which impacts entrepreneurship and startups due to excessive regulations, taxation, licenses and permits.

"It's become much more difficult for people to launch and start businesses, and that has a direct impact in the overall economy," added Garza.

In regards to having Latinos politically engaged, Garza first highlighted that the Latino community is diverse -- economically, educationally, gender, nationality and the individual's American experience.

"Everybody has a voice. Everybody has a different experience. What we try to do is provide a platform for those folks to voice their opinions, to voice their ideas as to how we can improve the American society, what their ideas are for generating prosperity," Garza said.

Garza mentioned Libre Initiative's 1,500 events that involved advocacy of policy positions in local, state and federal levels. He also acknowledged the organization's outreach toward Latinas, business owners, faith groups and youths. The purpose for the different outreach levels was for each diverse Latino group to "have a voice, have a place at the table to be able to affect policy."

"We come at it from a very free market perspective, a limited government perspective, and I think that is an important voice within the discussion in the Latino community, and I think all Latinos should welcome that kind of discussion instead of trying to censor it as some other folks have tried to do."

Garza emphasized that the discussion of economic freedom will allow people to advance and succeed in other endeavors.

2016 Presidential Election Message and Candidates:

In regards to the 2016 presidential candidates, Garza said the ideas presented by the candidates should be important and not on personalities and the individual. He noted that candidates who advance the principles of free market, open competition, private-sector growth -- while not growing the size of government -- are attributes that follow Libre Initiative's mission.

Speaking about U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Garza said, "I think it's exciting for the Latino community to have one of their own, who is a top-tier candidate, who I think brings innovative ideas. I've been impressed by him, and obviously a lot that he has expressed, his narrative is one that is common to us, that we relate to: picked himself up from the bootstraps, his dad was a bartender and his mother was working in a hotel as a maid. I think we can all relate to that."

"The fact that he shares our American experience and our struggles as folks who had to come up from the bottom and up the economic ladder, I think he has a unique perspective on things; he has a shared language and a shared culture. I think that position is very well moving forward."

Garza acknowledged there is a similar narrative between Rubio and fellow presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, specifically the family upbringing and shared struggles.

"I think Ted Cruz has a lot of conviction, is a principled person. I think he needs to be a bit more pragmatic or practical in his approach to policy, making sure that he is able to persuade and that means sometimes he has to give in a little bit under his positions, but other than that, I think Ted Cruz is strong. Texas loves him. He's been a strong senator. He has a strong voice, and I think he's going to run a hell of a campaign."

For the sole Democratic Party presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, Garza said he is "not aligned" with the former secretary of state on the issues.

"Hillary is more populist in her approach to governing. In other words, I think she'll tell you what you want to hear," said Garza. "She's more about personality and gender and dividing the voters instead of coalescing, instead of talking about important [and] broad issues and instead of speaking on principle and honoring the legacy of America, which has been a legacy of free markets, of individual liberties, of upholding the principles that are enshrined in our founding charters, which is the Declaration of Independence and of course the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

The Libre Initiative executive director said Clinton wants to expand the role of government and has "a bit of conceit" as to what has been her role as secretary of state. According to Garza, the U.S. is worse-off as a result of Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, noting there are topics she did not address and may have neglected.

The 114th Congress and Immigration Reform Legislation:

Garza views the current 114th Congress as "more productive" than the previous sessions, notably the U.S. Senate when it was under U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. Garza mentioned the amendment process during Reid's time as senate majority leader, which "forced" Senate Republicans to vote on legislation filled with "poison pills and were actually drafted in back rooms and had little contribution or collaboration from [the GOP]." With the new senator majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Garza said there is an "expanded and robust" amendment process.

"I'm optimistic, I'm hopeful that I think we're going to get some good legislation, and I don't only say that because Republicans are in control, but I think just recently you've seen the legislative process open up, it's a little more transparent and I think participatory."

On immigration reform, Garza would like to see reform that would include a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently in the U.S., including immediate citizenship for DREAMers and an improved visa process for labor market demand instead of "arbitrary" quotas set by Congress.

"At the end of the day, given the political limitations on a path to citizenship, if the next best thing we can get is a work visa program that's going, at least, provide legalization -- the certainty that the 11 million would not be deported or separated from their family -- then that's fine, too. We'll accept the next best thing, which is a legalization program," said Garza.

Garza noted he supports the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program but from the 2012 guidelines. He admits there is a still concern about DACA since it was imposed directly by the executive branch, specifically President Barack Obama. Since people have "in good faith" applied for DACA, Libre Initiative is against rescinding the program and wants to preserve it. The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, which was announced by Obama in November 2014 but not yet implemented, also has its concerns from the organization.

"The problem with [DAPA] is that it doesn't honor our system of a republic," said Garza. "We elected our congressmen and our senators, and, as a president, you have to execute the law based on the consent and will of and approvals of Congress, and when you don't do that, you circumvent the process and put us in a position we're at now where a court may rescind or eliminate DACA or DAPA and then expose all these folks that signed on in good faith."

Response to Criticism About Libre Initiative:

The Libre Initiative has received its share of criticisms by organizations such as Media Matters and the People for the American Way. The criticisms have included Libre Initiative's "conservative response" towards issues and its donors.

"A lot of groups and individuals project their own stereotypes of who we are, project their own insecurities of their own agendas and their own ideas that they may not be anchored on some merit and reasons. When they hear somebody else who runs a counter-narrative, or who is proposing something that they don't agree with, they feel threatened by that," said Garza.

He continued, "They feel threatened for a couple of reasons: One, because again, it undermines their own agenda, and I think the weakness of their own ideas. Second, they feel threatened because there is this conceit in Latino progressive organizations and individuals who are more liberal that somehow the Latino community belongs to them, that is their territory and anybody that comes into the Latino community advancing a message that runs counter to theirs, they should be censored, they should be shutdown. That is un-American, that is weak. If you feel strongly about your ideas, let's have an honest discussion about those ideas, let's have a debate and let the individual decide what is best for America."

Garza said such critics prefer the government have the power instead of the individual.


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