On March 15 Florida will hold its presidential primary, a chance for the almost million Puerto Ricans living in that state to make a difference in the race for the White House.

For the first time in our lifetime, the American citizens of the United States Territory of Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to directly influence the results of this important election. Unfortunately, that power rests with the Puerto Ricans that live in the Sunshine State, not on our Island.

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The growing number of Puerto Ricans living in Florida could decide the fate of the Republican Party. Recent polls show a race too close to call between frontrunner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE and Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Tillerson, Trump deny report of rift | Tillerson says he never considered resigning | Trump expresses 'total confidence' in secretary | Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad Rubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts GOP establishment doubts Bannon’s primary powers MORE (Fla.), with Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (Texas) coming in a distance third. This is where the Puerto Rican community could make its voice hear.

The famous I-4 corridor, as it's called, which runs through a swing-vote region is undergoing significant demographic change. Since early 2013 Puerto Ricans have been migrating by the thousands to that area, a force migration due to poor economic conditions on the Island that have transformed the region.

Orange County alone is home to more than 150,000 Puerto Ricans. Overall, Puerto Ricans now number nearly one million statewide and represent 28 percent of Hispanic registered voters — closing in on a Cuban population of 1.3 million that comprises 32 percent of Hispanic voters.

This is an enormous political power. It’s time to flex it. Puerto Ricans need to cast their votes in masses next week. We need to make a statement now, and it all starts in Florida.

The people of the Island living in Florida needs to demand that the candidates, on both parties, put forward a specific set of policies to help Puerto Rico gain admission into the Union.

All three GOP candidates must make a pledge to the Puerto Rican community that once elected; they will push forward the end to more than a century of colonial rule on the Island.

In 2012 Puerto Ricans on the Island voted, with a robust 54 percent, against the current territorial status. More to the point, in a landslide vote, 61 percent of the people that participated in the status referendum decided to end more than a century of political uncertainty by becoming a full member of our Nation as its 51 State.

The winner of the Florida race will have a huge cloud heading into November.

No Republican can take the White House without the state’s crucial 29 electoral votes. On the other side, a Democratic third term in the presidency depends heavily on retaining this important voting block; thus there’s a pressing need on both sides to cater to the ever-growing Puerto Rican community.

I urge the people of Puerto Rico living in Florida to use this singular and historic opportunity to push to the top of the agenda the issue of inequality felt by the American citizens residing on the Island, and to accept no less.

The time has come to flex our political muscle in order to achieve equality.

Aponte-Hernandez is the former Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives.