Catalina Cruz

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Catalina Cruz
Catalina Cruz at the Queens Museum.jpg
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 39th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded byAri Espinal
Personal details
Born1982/1983 (age 39–40)
Medellín, Colombia
Political partyDemocratic
EducationCity University of New York, John Jay (BS)
City University of New York, Long Island City (JD)
WebsiteOfficial website

Catalina Cruz (born c. 1982/1983)[1][2][3] is a Colombian-American[4] attorney from the borough of Queens in New York City.[5] A member of the Democratic Party and former undocumented immigrant (DREAMer), 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.

Early life and education[edit]

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[edit]

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] She had received campaign training from New American Leaders that she believes helped her ultimately fundraise nearly $200,000 to win the primary race.[27]

Personal life[edit]

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.[28]

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.[29]

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


  1. ^ a b "Attorney General Cuomo Sues To Stop Immigration Ripoff Scheme That Falsely Promised Green Cards And Citizenship" (Press release). New York State Attorney General. May 13, 2009.
  2. ^ "Board of Directors". Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
  3. ^ Matua, Angela (February 5, 2018). "Cuomo announces special election for April to fill former Queens Assemblyman Moya's seat".
  4. ^ a b c "New York City Region '16: Latino 40 Under 40 Rising Stars". The Hispanic Coalition NY. 2016.
  5. ^ Gannon, Michael (November 16, 2017). "Heartache but hope at one year of Trump". Queens Chronicle.
  6. ^ a b c d Clifford, Christen (July 18, 2018). "This Woman Plans to Be One of the First 'Dreamers' in Office". Broadly. Vice Media.
  7. ^ "Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's Task Force to Combat Worker Exploitation: 2016 Report" (PDF). State of New York. 2016.
  8. ^ Corzo V., Álvaro (March 7, 2018). "La "soñadora" colombiana que hace historia en la política de Nueva York". El Espectador (in Spanish).
  9. ^ a b c d e Morris, Alex (March 19, 2018). "Meet Catalina Cruz, the Queens Dreamer Running for Office". The Cut. New York.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Nagler, Betsy; Cruz, Catalina (June 2018). "Episode 17 - Catalina Cruz: A Dreamer in Queens". Mobilize Here. Archived from the original (Audio podcast interview) on November 7, 2018. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  11. ^ Lewis, Rebecca C. (October 22, 2018). "What it means to be a 'Dreamer'". City & State.
  12. ^ "Jackson Heights' Catalina Cruz makes history by being first DREAMer elected to NY State Senate -". Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  13. ^ Cruz, 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
  14. ^ a b Ramos, Juanita (February 6, 2018). "La "Dreamer" colombiana que se abre camino político en Nueva York". El Borde (in European Spanish).
  15. ^ Semple, Kirk; Manrique, Jenny (May 28, 2009). "Cuomo Widens a Probe Into Immigration Fraud". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "President: Catalina Cruz, Esq". Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  17. ^ a b c "Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments" (press release). Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. September 24, 2015.
  18. ^ Ramírez, David (February 28, 2018). "Dreamer hispana busca puesto estatal en NY". El Diario NY (in European Spanish).
  19. ^ Jordan, Brandon (February 23, 2018). "Catalina Cruz Places Community First In State Assembly Run". Queens County Politics.
  20. ^ Najarro, Ileana (July 16, 2015). "Cuomo Task Force to Investigate Worker Exploitation in Many Industries". The New York Times.
  21. ^ Parry, Bill (March 23, 2017). "CB4 delays decision on 111th Street safety improvements". TimesLedger. Archived from the original on March 19, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  22. ^ Hallum, Mark (March 16, 2018). "Activists rejoice as Community Board 4 votes against proposal for Target, housing structure in Elmhurst". TimesLedger. Archived from the original on March 16, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  23. ^ Karim, Meeran; Segers, Grace; Thomas, Tiffany S. (February 6, 2018). "Who's vying for the 11 vacant state legislative seats?". City & State.
  24. ^ Carrera, Jonelle (February 27, 2018). "Voters in Queens Assembly District Could See a Rarity in September: A Contested Race!". City Limits.
  25. ^ Lewis, Rebecca C. (September 13, 2018). "IDC and other New York legislative 2018 primary results". City & State New York. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  26. ^ Acevedo, Nicole; Leanos, Jr., Reynaldo (November 7, 2018). "Catalina Cruz becomes first former 'Dreamer' elected to New York state Assembly". NBCNews. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  27. ^ Bunch, Will (April 9, 2019). "Repurposing the Dream". Teachers College - Columbia University. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  28. ^ Marínez, David (January 18, 2018). "La Gran Manzana se moviliza para exigir que se mantenga DACA". El Diario NY (in European Spanish).
  29. ^ "About Catalina – Catalina Cruz". Cruz for New York. Archived from the original on March 18, 2018. Retrieved March 18, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Member of the New York Assembly
from the 39th district