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Catalina Cruz

Catalina Cruz

Catalina Cruz (born c. 1982/1983)[1][2][3] is a Colombian-American[4] attorney and former DREAMer from the borough of Queens in New York City.[5] Cruz has worked as an advocate for immigration rights, including as Director of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's 2016 Exploited Task Force.[6][7] Cruz was elected as the Democratic candidate in the Fall 2018 election for the 39th district of the New York State Assembly, representing Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, Queens.

Member of thefrom the 39th district
January 3, 2019
Ari Espinal
Personal details
Born1982/1983 (age 36–37)Medellín,Colombia
Political partyDemocratic
ResidenceJackson Heights,Queens,New YorkU.S.

Early life and education

Cruz was born in Medellín, Colombia.[8] In 1992, when she was nine years old, Cruz and her mother came to the United States under a six month tourist visa.[9] They remained in the U.S. and she was undocumented for over 10 years after her initial tourist visa expired.[10]. Cruz grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. She has five siblings, three of whom are U.S. citizens.[4][9][10] Cruz became the first former undocumented immigrant who identifies as a DREAMer to be elected in New York state. (Both Adriano Espaillat and Gabriela Rosa were former undocumented immigrants who served in the New York State legislature, but neither identifies as a DREAMer.[11]) She is also the first Colombian-American in the district,[12] and only the third DREAMer to serve in an elected position in the United States.[9] In 2001, Cruz graduated from John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens.[13] In 2005, Cruz received a bachelor's degree with honors in forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 2009, Cruz received a J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law.[6][14]


After law school Cruz worked as a Volunteer Assistant Attorney General for the New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, where her case work included focusing on fraud related to immigration services and working on prosecution efforts.[1][15]

From 2009 to 2012, Cruz was counsel at the Goddard Riverside SRO Law Project at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.[16]

From 2012 to 2014, Cruz was counsel to the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs at the New York State Department of Labor.[17]

In 2014, Cruz was counsel to the Immigration Committee for the New York City Council, where she worked to improve coverage of issue related to domestic worker trafficking. She worked on the Unaccompanied Minors Initiative and the IDNYC program. She also oversaw the Key to the City program.[17] She was in this position until 2015.[18][19]

From 2015 to 2017, Cruz was the Director of the Office of the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo.[17] During this time she was the Special Assistant for Labor & Workforce. She was also the Director of the Joint Task Force on Worker Exploitation and Employee Misclassification, also known as the Exploited Workers Task Force, a working as assistant counsel in Cuomo's taskforce.[20]

In 2017, Cruz became Chief of Staff for New York City Council Member, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland until Ferreras-Copeland made the decision not to seek re-election.[21][22]

New York Assembly

In February 2018, Cruz announced her candidacy for Francisco Moya's vacated position on the New York State Assembly's Assembly District 39.[23] The District's Democratic leadership instead unanimously selected Ari Espinal as the Democratic candidate in the April 2018 special election.[24]

Cruz then won the Democratic primary for District 39 on September 13, 2018 over Espinal,[25] and won the seat on November 6, 2018.[26]

Personal life

Cruz identifies as a DREAMer under the unadopted DREAM Act that was introduced in 2001,[6] which addresses citizenship of children brought to the United States by their parents and living as undocumented citizens.[27]

Cruz married her high school boyfriend in 2003,[9] which allowed Cruz to get her green card in 2005[6] and become a U.S. citizen in 2009.[10][9] Cruz' citizenship allowed her to sponsor her mother's citizenship.[10] The marriage ended in divorce.[10] Cruz is married to a New York Police Department police officer.[4] She and her husband live in Jackson Heights, Queens.[28]

Cruz has said that the attorney who did her immigration papers inspired her to go to law school and become a lawyer.[10][14]


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Citation Linkwww.cypresshillschildcare.org"Board of Directors". Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
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Citation Linkqns.comMatua, Angela (February 5, 2018). "Cuomo announces special election for April to fill former Queens Assemblyman Moya's seat". QNS.com.
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Citation Linkwww.hcnewyork.com"New York City Region '16: Latino 40 Under 40 Rising Stars". The Hispanic Coalition NY. 2016.
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Citation Linkwww.qchron.comGannon, Michael (November 16, 2017). "Heartache but hope at one year of Trump". Queens Chronicle.
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Citation Linkbroadly.vice.comClifford, Christen (July 18, 2018). "This Woman Plans to Be One of the First 'Dreamers' in Office". Broadly. Vice Media.
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Citation Linkwww.governor.ny.gov"Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation: 2016 Report" (PDF). State of New York. 2016.
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Citation Linkwww.elespectador.comCorzo V., Álvaro (March 7, 2018). "La "soñadora" colombiana que hace historia en la política de Nueva York". El Espectador (in Spanish).
Sep 27, 2019, 8:39 PM
Citation Linkwww.thecut.comMorris, Alex (March 19, 2018). "Meet Catalina Cruz, the Queens Dreamer Running for Office". The Cut. New York.
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Citation Linkwww.mobilizehere.comNagler, Betsy; Cruz, Catalina (June 2018). "Episode 17 - Catalina Cruz: A Dreamer in Queens" (Audio podcast interview). Mobilize Here.
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Citation Linkwww.cityandstateny.comLewis, Rebecca C. (October 22, 2018). "What it means to be a 'Dreamer'". City & State.
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Citation Linkqns.com"Jackson Heights' Catalina Cruz makes history by being first DREAMer elected to NY State Senate - QNS.com". QNS.com. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
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Citation Linkwww.youtube.comCruz, Catalina (May 31, 2018). "Catalina Cruz: A Promise to Keep" (Video). Catalina Cruz NY. At 0:22: John Bowne High School diploma, as Catalina Bermudez
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Citation Linkelborde.coRamos, Juanita (February 6, 2018). "La "Dreamer" colombiana que se abre camino político en Nueva York". El Borde (in Spanish).
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Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comSemple, Kirk; Manrique, Jenny (May 28, 2009). "Cuomo Widens a Probe Into Immigration Fraud". The New York Times.
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Citation Linklatinolawyers.org"President: Catalina Cruz, Esq". Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
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Citation Linkwww.governor.ny.gov"Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments" (press release). Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. September 24, 2015.
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Citation Linkeldiariony.comRamírez, David (February 28, 2018). "Dreamer hispana busca puesto estatal en NY". El Diario NY (in Spanish).
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Citation Linkqueenscountypolitics.comJordan, Brandon (February 23, 2018). "Catalina Cruz Places Community First In State Assembly Run". Queens County Politics.
Sep 27, 2019, 8:39 PM
Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comNajarro, Ileana (July 16, 2015). "Cuomo Task Force to Investigate Worker Exploitation in Many Industries". The New York Times.
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