Eric Cantor's historic defeat in Virginia hardly fazes an immigration activist

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. We're all still absorbing the political shockwaves today after last night's stunning primary results in Virginia. Congressman Eric Cantor, the GOP's majority leader in the House, was soundly defeated by college professor Dave Brat, a Tea Party favorite. Here's why we at The World are interested in this development: Washington pundits are going wild dissecting the unexpected result and one of the factors they're citing is Cantor's stance on immigration reform. Here's a clip from a Cantor appearance on Fox News last year.

Eric Cantor: If a kid was brought here by his parents, or her parents, unbeknownst to them, and known no other place than America as home, why wouldn't we want to give them a path to citizenship?

Werman: Cantor's critics say that amounts to amnesty for lawbreakers. I've got Ben Monterroso on the line. He's executive director of Mi Familia Vota, a grassroots organization that advocates for comprehensive immigration reform. First of all Ben, how big a factor do you think immigration reform was in Eric Cantor's loss last night?

Ben Monterroso: I think that the issue of immigration did play an issue to help the guy who won the election but I think he won the election because Mr. Cantor was not paying attention to his constituency. Let's make one thing very clear: Mr. Cantor was never being any favor to immigration reform. He played both sides of the issue and he stopped the debate in the Congress. I just feel that when you have committed people like Lindsey Graham, who has stood by his decision and explained to the voters, you can see that you can win elections with that issue.

Werman: It does leave us with the question with her immigration reform now. Many Washington insiders are saying that the chances of immigration reform were already on life support and last night's election in Virginia pulled the plug. How do you feel?

Monterroso: The only ones that can pull the plug are the Republicans. 66,000 which is the number of voters in a conservative area in Virginia who decided the election, should not define whether or not the issue of immigration [reform] is dead.

Werman: I'm wondering how much those 66,000 voters are going to have influence on other candidates. Are you worried that other candidates, especially Republicans who support DREAM Act kind of things, to reevaluate their positions or else they'll become another Cantor?

Monterroso: You have a choice here. Either you be afraid of the Tea Party or you be concerned about your constituency and the areas that you represent that has grown. We know that there's a lot of Congresspeople, that the districts are not looking the same as Virginia.

Werman: For your activists who are out there on the ground with clipboards and speaking with people, how do you keep them motivated after something like what happened last night in Virginia?

Monterroso: The same way that we've been keeping them motivated for the last 20 years. “Just keep in mind that this issue of immigration reform, over the last eight months, has been declared dead by a lot of different people, by political pundits, by media, by the Republican Party, and we’re still here. Failure to fix immigration reform is not an option because 11 million people live in this country and are being separated. That is the motivation. We're definitely going to continue doing that. One thing you’re going to start seeing more and more [is] our community not only registering, but participating a lot more in the elections — the same thing that happened in 2012, it was a big surprise for the Republicans … They found out that our community went out to vote for the candidate that they felt was going to represent our issues.

Werman: Ben Monterroso with the activist organization Mi Familia Vota, speaking with us from Washington. Thank you, Ben.

Monterroso: Thank you very much.

Werman: Speaking of immigration, our Global Nation desk has a blog post up right now at that features some great photos by Encarni Pindado. Her most recent work is a project called MigraZoom. She's given migrants who are making the trek to the US border disposable cameras and you can see the journey north through the migrant's own eyes. Again, those incredible photos are on our website,