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

Ben Monterroso, executive director for Mi Familia Vota, a national nonprofit organization with the mission to unite Latinos and allies through civic participation, told Latin Post that the Latino electorate is key for a presidential candidate to win the White House.

"There is no president that can get the White House without having the Latino vote," said Monterroso, calling the electorate "strategic" and "important." "You have key states that without the Latino support, the candidate is not going to win, and if those key states don't vote for the president -- they're not going to make it."

Latin Post interviewed Monterroso following the fourth Republican presidential debate and the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to block President Barack Obama's immigration executive action.

Obama's immigration executive actions, which saw the introduction of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and expansion of 2012's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), has been subject to a temporary federal injunction by Republican governors and attorneys general. Despite the legal hurdles, Monterroso remained hopeful of the deferred actions' implementation.

"Obama's immigration executive actions were a symbolic victory to the Latino community. Now that we know its going to go to the Supreme Court, we have faith and confidence that the Supreme Court. ... I believe that the Supreme Court will do the right thing," said Monterroso, adding, he's confident that the eligible five million undocumented immigrants will have something to celebrate once the Supreme Court renders its decision.

From his point of view, the congressional inaction on immigration reform and remarks from Republican presidential candidates have made Latinos more engaged with the elections.

The Mi Familia Vota executive director said Republican candidates, namely Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have been committed to "insult" and "ignore" the Latino community. Monterroso said a few Republican presidential candidates have tried to defend Latinos, but it does not appear to gain traction from fellow GOP colleagues because they are not interested in working Latino community. While a couple Republican candidates spoke against Trump's mass deportation plan, Monterroso noted that the rest "kept themselves quiet. That, to me, if you're quiet, it means you agree."

In regards to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who was not asked about immigration on the Fox Business Network and Wall Street Journal debate, Monterroso said he could have included himself in the conversation as his fellow candidates did.

"Now that he's running for the nomination of the Republican Party, [Rubio] has changed completely. I have to wait to see what kind of a person he will be after the nomination. ... I think he is displaying to the voters that he wants to play with and ignore his community," Monterroso said.

Monterroso said Trump has set the rules of the game, and everyone else within the GOP has been abiding by it, and that is, "Let's go after the Latino community." He said the GOP, as a whole, has not been open or willing to address the Latino community in a respectful manner, citing comments from the fourth Republican debate to former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and current House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., not providing a solution on immigration.

"Today, they have the majority in the Congress, and they're not even talking about how to fix the issue of immigration reform because they don't trust the president? Does that mean that they're going to close Congress and go home until we have a new president? Or are they going to stay there and do the work?"

For Mi Familia Vota, Monterroso said the plans are to ensure that more people become eligible to vote by Election Day 2016. He said there are approximately six million Latinos who are eligible to become citizens, and Mi Familia Vota wants to make sure that they realize and understand that they can become politically invovled. The same efforts are underway for U.S. citizens who turned 18 years old, and older, to register to vote.

Further, Monsterroso said the organization is working to keep voters informed about the candidates' positions and vote for the candidate that best represents their views.

"I think that the Latino community has in their hands the responsibility to ensure the candidates, or one of the elected officials, know that we are paying attention," said Monterroso.


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