Many have come to know Ben Monterroso as a key champion and leader for many immigrants’ rights campaigns, dating back to 1994 when he helped lead the fight against California Proposition 187, an extreme anti-immigrant ballot initiative that proposed stripping basic human and civil rights from immigrants. With that battle came the realization that instead of playing defense, the immigrant rights community needed to assert its rights by working to repair the broken immigration system. Since then, Ben has brought an impassioned commitment to social justice and immigration reform by growing Latinos’ engagement in the civic process and showing that the political empowerment of Latinos can force change for generations to come.
After emigrating from Guatemala in 1977 and working as a janitor, Ben joined the Service Employees International Union in 1981. During his more than 30 years of service, Ben helped organize and fight for the rights, including negotiating contracts, of workers in janitorial, healthcare, domestic work and public sector occupations. He retired in 2014 to devote his full-time energy, passion and skills to building Latino political power through Mi Familia Vota.
Through his decades-long work as a strategic and skillful organizer, Ben has been at the forefront of efforts to turn lawful permanent residents into citizens, and new citizens into voters, and to grow the Latino vote and level of civic engagement. By striving to build coalitions among community organizations, immigrant-sending countries, businesses, and faith-based groups, as well as optimizing the power of Spanish-language media, Ben has been instrumental in creating a movement for social justice that advances the lives of Latinos and immigrants in this country.
In 2012, under Ben’s leadership, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund’s voter registration, education, and mobilization efforts established the organization as a leading national Latino civic engagement organization. Those gains resulted in Mi Familia Vota Education Fund significantly expanding its programs and field operations in six key states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.
During the historic 2016 presidential election, Mi Familia Vota registered over 91,000 people, knocked on 255,000 doors, and made 175,000 calls. This record-breaking effort harnessed the power of over 400 paid staff and activated approximately 950 volunteers, producing an estimated 2,850 hours of volunteer work on the campaign.
Ben continues to build the leadership and infrastructure of the organization at the national stage by recruiting and developing national and local leaders to make the organization the success it is today. He also leads the field and national coordinating efforts of the Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of more than 200 organizations working for fair immigration laws and administrative policies.