NEWS ABOUT CATALINA
The latest news about Catalina’s campaign and our community.
Catalina Cruz is New York’s first Dreamer to run for office
Catalina Cruz remembers arriving at JFK Airport from Colombia at just 9 years old with her single mother with one thing on their minds: Achieving the American Dream.
That memory came flooding back to Cruz, now 35, as she stood with hundreds of protesters at LaGuardia Airport in June waiting for immigrant children — who were believed to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border because of President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy — to arrive.
“I was getting really triggered by flashbacks. I have this vivid memory of walking through JFK. I just remember metal doors being opened and me holding my mom’s hand and it being really, really cold outside,” Cruz tells Viva. “For me, that’s all I could think of: ‘These kids are about to walk through these doors and they don’t have their mom holding their hand like I did.’”
But there were no kids in sight — as protesters later realized they were likely taken to shelters.
“We were there until almost 2 in the morning,” she says. “We thought they might’ve been taken through a different door.”
Cruz knows the immigrant struggle all too well because she was once undocumented.
Now, she’s running for an Assembly seat in Queens’ 39th District, which includes neighborhoods such as Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, where she lives. Cruz is the first Dreamer — undocumented migrants brought to the U.S. as children — to run for office in New York state.
If she wins the September primary and November general election, she would become the third in the U.S.
The Democratic candidate says her mother Rosa’s experience of working multiple jobs — including handing out fliers on 82nd St. for $40 a day, selling tamales and empanadas, and serving as a nanny — to provide for her and her three American-born siblings is what motivated her to run for office.
“We came here with a vision of finding a better life,” Cruz says. “I didn’t know English, my mom didn’t know English, we didn’t have any papers.”
In 2005, Cruz became a permanent resident before obtaining her American citizenship four years later. She went on to build her impressive resume by serving as director of Gov. Cuomo’s Exploited Workers Task Force, implementing IDNYC — a municipal identification card program for all New Yorkers, including immigrants — and recently working as former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland’s chief of staff.
The guilt of being a U.S. citizen, she says, also played a role in her decision the run.
“I was lucky enough to get papers, but I was also an attorney and I had all this experience and all these connections with our community and with people in powerful elected offices,” Cruz says. “Why not use it for good? Why not use it to defend our community?”
Cruz says she vows to protect immigrants’ rights by introducing legislation that prohibits state agencies from sharing information with the federal government, providing all New Yorkers with driver licenses regardless of their immigration status, and allocating $100 million over the next five years to fund legal services for them.
“I think that while Washington is attacking us, we as a state have the ability and the responsibility to protect immigrants and what they need to thrive while we wait it out,” Cruz says. “We don’t have a choice. (Trump) is going to be our President for the next two and a half years. In the meantime, we have to ponerlos los pantalones and protect our immigrant communities.”