Assemblywoman Cruz Appointed to Lead Assembly Task Force on New Americans at a Critical Time for Millions of Immigrant New Yorkers

New York, NY – Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz was appointed today by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to lead the Task Force on New Americans. Assemblywoman Cruz was chosen to head the Task Force based on her intimate knowledge of and profound experience with the struggle of immigrant New Yorkers. The Task Force on New Americans plays a key role in advocating for policies and legislation that provide equity and advancement to all immigrants living in New York State. The Task Force also seeks to increase awareness on the positive economic and social impact immigrants have on New York State.

Born in Medellin, Colombia, Assemblywoman Cruz came to the United States at the age of 9 and lived undocumented for over a decade. After graduating from CUNY Law School, she established the first Anti-Human Trafficking initiative for the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL), where she went on to develop protocols to endorse T & U Visas for victims of severe forms of crime and human trafficking. She then went on to serve as counsel to the New York City Council’s Committee on Immigration, where she drafted key city laws that now protect individuals against immigration services fraud. She also worked on the landmark, “Detainer Law,” which protects the Constitutional Rights of immigrants in New York City.

Since taking office in 2019, Assemblywoman Cruz has championed key legislation to improve the lives of new Americans. She was a crucial voice in advocating for the passage of Drivers Licenses for All, citing her own experience as a formerly undocumented immigrant who was unable to obtain a driver’s license. Her advocacy was also pivotal for the passage of the José Peralta DREAM Act, which provides undocumented students access to New York State‐administered grants and scholarships that support their higher education costs.

With over 150 languages spoken and a thousand cultures and religions celebrated in Assembly District 39, Assemblywoman Cruz has the privilege of representing one of the most diverse districts in the country. Located in Central Queens, the neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst are home to residents from every corner of the world. Almost 60% of the district is foreign born, of which approximately 40% have no permanent status (DACA recipients, refugees, and undocumented).

Assemblywoman Cruz is currently the prime sponsor of several bills championing the rights of new Americans, including establishing the right to legal counsel in immigration court proceedings state-wide, permitting access to state public benefits regardless of immigration status, and providing financial assistance to immigrant families burying their loved ones.

“Our nation has seen a dramatic increase in anti-immigrant sentiment fueled by harmful public policies at the federal level. As we work to provide a more inclusive future for our immigrant neighbors, this task force promises to ensure that no one is left behind. I want to thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for entrusting me to lead such a critical initiative and for his commitment to fighting for the more than 4.2 million immigrants who call New York State their home. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the State to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, as we work to reverse one of the worst anti-immigrant eras in modern times,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.

"Immigrants are a vital thread in the social and economic fabric of New York. The Assembly Majority has never stopped fighting for the hardworking people that make up our diverse communities" said Speaker Carl E. Heastie. "As a former DREAMer, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz is uniquely qualified to lead the Task Force on New Americans to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the resources they need."

"At a time when millions of immigrant New Yorkers are bearing the brunt of the pandemic and the economic recession, it is vital that our state leaders step up and deliver for our communities. Assemblymember Cruz's leadership of the Task Force on New Americans will ensure Albany can meet this moment. The New York Immigration Coalition congratulates Assemblymember Cruz and we look forward to working with her to ensure no one is left behind as we rebuild our state," said Murad Awawdeh, Interim Co-Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition.