Catalina Cruz (politician)

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Catalina Cruz
Catalina Cruz in Jackson Heights, New York. Fall 2017
Catalina Cruz in Jackson Heights, New York. Fall 2017
Candidate for
Democratic primary for New York State Assembly, 39th district
Election date
September 13, 2018
Personal details
Bornc. 1982/1983 (age 39–40)
Medellín, Colombia
ResidenceJackson Heights, Queens,
New York U.S.
Political activist

Catalina Cruz (born c. 1982/1983).[1][2][3] is an attorney, former DREAMer, and political activist on issues related to immigrant rights, community organizing in immigrant communities, and workers rights.[4] She is a candidate in the Fall 2018 election for the 39th district of the New York State Assembly, representing Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, Queens, in New York City. If elected, Cruz would be the first DREAMer to be elected in New York state, the first Colombian-American in the district, and only the third DREAMer to serve in an elected position in the United States.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Cruz was born in Medellín, Colombia.[6] In 1992, she and her mother came to the United States when Cruz was nine years old. Cruz was a DREAMer.[7] She was undocumented for over 10 years after her initial tourist visa expired.[8] However, she and her mother, a domestic worker who faced wage theft and other abuses due to her immigration status, eventually became legal residents.[5][9]

In 2005, Cruz received a bachelor's degree 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.[9]


After law school Cruz worked for a short time 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]

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, where she assisted low income tenants with rent stabilization issues.[10]

From 2012 to 2014, Cruz was counsel to the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs at the New York State Department of Labor, where she managed the work against human trafficking.[11] Her work included outreach in the immigrant community focusing on worker rights.[12]

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 which promotes municipal identification. She also oversaw the Key to the City program.[11] She was in this position until 2015.[9][13]

From 2015 to 2017, Cruz was the Director of the Office of the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo.[11] 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 position where Cruz was responsible for the coordination of the enforcement and outreach efforts of 13 state agencies working to address worker exploitation.[11][14]

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.[15][16]

In February 2018, Cruz announced her candidacy for Francisco Moya's vacated position on the New York State Assembly's Assembly District 39,[17] a district in Queens, New York, that includes Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, for a special election to take place in April 2018.[18][19] On February 12, the Democratic leadership for District 39 unanimously elected Ari Espinal to be the Democratic candidate over Cruz.[20]

Cruz announced that she would run for the District 39 Assembly seat, with the Democratic primary to be held on September 13, 2018, and, if nominated, a general election to be held on November 6, 2018.[20][21][22] Cruz' platform focuses on improving the MTA, making public schools better, making housing in New York City more affordable, working to support immigrants including providing immigrants with access to driver's licenses, and advocating for LGBT rights.[3]

In March 2018, Cruz led protests at a Community Board 4 meeting against the expansion of a construction plan by Sun Equity Partners and the Heskel Group to include a 13-story building with a large Target store at its base to an already highly congested area in Elmhurst-Jackson Heights, Queens.[23][24] The proposal would have included a luxury high rise in addition to the Target mega-store.[25] The activism was successful, resulting a rejection of the plan by CB4.[16]

Other activism work by Cruz has included assisting immigrants in negotiating the temporary protected status process[26] and advocating against cronyism and cultural bias in the assignment of guardianship appointments in judicial courts in Queens, a borough that is known for its diverse population.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Cruz is married to a New York Police Department police officer.[28] She and her husband live in Jackson Heights, Queens.[29] Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 2009.[5]

Leadership and honors[edit]

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Latin American Student Association, President
  • 2016: The Hispanic Coalition NY, Latino 40 Under 40 Rising Stars[28]
  • 2016-2017: Coro Leadership New York[30]
  • 2017-present: Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County, President[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Attorney General Cuomo Sues To Stop Immigration Ripoff Scheme That Falsely Promised Green Cards And Citizenship" (Press release). New York State Attorney General. 13 May 2009.
  2. "Board of Directors". Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Matua, Angela (5 February 2018). "Cuomo announces special election for April to fill former Queens Assemblyman Moya's seat".
  4. Gannon, Michael (16 November 2017). "Heartache but hope at one year of Trump". Queens Chronicle.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Morris, Alex (19 March 2018). "Meet Catalina Cruz, the Queens Dreamer Running for Office". The Cut. New York.
  6. Corzo V., Álvaro (7 March 2018). "La "soñadora" colombiana que hace historia en la política de Nueva York". El Espectador (in español).
  7. Marínez, David (18 January 2018). "La Gran Manzana se moviliza para exigir que se mantenga DACA". El Diario NY (in español).
  8. "NYC Young Women's' Political Leadership Conference. Speakers & Panelists: Catalina Cruz". IGNITE National. 27 January 2018.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Ramírez, David (28 February 2018). "Dreamer hispana busca puesto estatal en NY". El Diario NY (in español).
  10. 10.0 10.1 "President: Catalina Cruz, Esq". Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments" (press release). Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. 24 September 2015.
  12. Rosner, Beth (26 November 2014). "Supporting Immigrant Worker Safety and Rights". Just Families. New York Law School.
  13. Jordan, Brandon (23 February 2018). "Catalina Cruz Places Community First In State Assembly Run". Queens County Politics.
  14. Benitez, Juan Manuel; Cruz, Catalina (4 February 2018). "'Exsoñadora' podría ser la primera colombiana en la Asamblea Estatal" (Video interview). NY1Noticias.
  15. Parry, Bill (23 March 2017). "CB4 delays decision on 111th Street safety improvements". TimesLedger.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Hallum, Mark (16 March 2018). "Activists rejoice as Community Board 4 votes against proposal for Target, housing structure in Elmhurst". TimesLedger.
  17. Karim, Meeran; Segers, Grace; Thomas, Tiffany S. (6 February 2018). "Who's vying for the 11 vacant state legislative seats?". City & State.
  18. Parry, Bill (11 February 2018). "Corona district leader will likely run in special election for Moya's Assembly seat". TimesLedger.
  19. O’Donnell, Jack (25 February 2018). "A Look at New York State's April 24th Special Elections". Artvoice.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Carrera, Jonelle (27 February 2018). "Voters in Queens Assembly District Could See a Rarity in September: A Contested Race!". City Limits.
  21. O’Reilly, Anthony (8 February 2018). "Special election to take place April 24". Queens Chronicle.
  22. Martinez, Edwin (21 February 2018). "Hispanas dan la pelea para aumentar poder femenino en Albany". El Diario NY (in español).
  23. Martinez, Edwin (14 March 2018). "Mega edificio de 13 pisos en Queens divide a negocios y residentes". El Diario NY (in español).
  24. Castaño, Javier (14 March 2018). "Edificio de la Calle 82 no podrá construir más pisos". Queens Latino (in español).
  25. Cruz, Catalina (13 March 2018). "Remove the Target Off Our Backs". Catalina Cruz. Medium.
  26. "Cómo debe seleccionar a un abogado de inmigración para evitar ser víctima de estafadores" (Video). Univision Noticias (in español). 9 January 2018.
  27. Silberstein, Rachel (14 June 2017). "Lawyers of Color Largely Shut Out of Queens Surrogate's Court Business". Gotham Gazette.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "New York City Region '16: Latino 40 Under 40 Rising Stars". The Hispanic Coalition NY. 2016.
  29. "About Catalina – Catalina Cruz". Cruz for New York. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  30. "Leadership New York 28 Program: Biographies 2016-2017" (PDF). Coro New York Leadership Center. 2016.

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