United States

Dreamer Catalina Cruz Looks To Make New York History

Colombia-born Catalina Cruz is looking to make history in the midterms

What to Know

  • Catalina Cruz, the first-ever Dreamer to run for State Assembly, could make history if elected Tuesday night.
  • The Colombia-born Dreamer, now 35, came to Queens age nine with her mother and three siblings, and was undocumented till age 19
  • She became an attorney and worked in politics, finally deciding to run for office when President Trump announced he wanted to end DACA

Dreamer Catalina Cruz is hoping to make history in a race for State Assembly against two other immigrants on Tuesday.

Cruz won the Democratic primary for a New York State Assembly seat in Queens' District 39 earlier this year, which covers Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst.

Now she's now on the verge of becoming the first so-called "Dreamer" ever elected to statewide office in New York.

Not all politicians can say they understand their constituents the way Catalina Cruz can. More than half of Queens' District 39 is foreign-born. The Colombia-born 35-year-old came to Queens at the age of nine with her mother and three siblings and lived in America for ten years without documentation.

She would have qualified under the Dream Act -- had it passed -- but now she has citizenship and is hoping to provide representation for other immigrants like herself.

"Even though now have privilege of being a citizen...that pain, that anguish never goes away... never goes away," she said.

She said her mother, who had an advanced degree in health care, worked doing everything from cleaning offices to selling tamales and empanadas at the soccer fields on the weekends and working long hours as a nanny during the week. Her mother's tireless perseverance made her committed to aiding legislation to protect workers, women and small business owners.

"I had to go to school not knowing if when I got home, my mom would be home or have been deported," she explained.

She became an attorney and worked in politics, finally deciding to run for office when President Trump announced he wanted to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows children, “dreamers," to gain citizenship if they were in the United States at a certain time.

It was the culmination of all of this that has also made her committed to being the first ever “dreamer” to be elected to statewide office in New York. She's already made history by being the first dreamer to ever run. 

It is her own personal experience that resonates with the people living in the State Assembly District 39. Cruz believes that her message of fighting against the president’s immigration policies will propel her to make history. One week out for the election, Cruz can barely go a block without getting recognized in the district.

‘We get here and work hard, but we're treated as less than we are because (we) don’t have papers and fear getting deported…and now it’s exactly the same thing all over again.”

Cruz has been labeled many things. Politician. Lawyer. Activist. But if she wins the election on Tuesday, she looks to gain two more titles: Assemblywoman, and History Maker.

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