March 29, 2020
March 2020: Conchita Cruz
Conchita Cruz (she/her)
ACS Next Generation Leader; Member, ACS New York Lawyer Chapter; Former Co-President, Yale Law School ACS Chapter
I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. My mother is a Cuban refugee who came to the United States as an unaccompanied minor. My father came to the United States as a teenager from Guatemala and was undocumented for many years. Throughout my childhood, my parents helped relatives and friends upon arriving in the United States– giving them a place to live, orienting them about where to get work, and how to seek out the American dream.
As I grew up, the challenges that our family and friends faced changed. They became focused on immigration issues and status. That’s why I became a community organizer in college and focused on organizing in immigrant communities to push for immigration reform. When immigration reform failed in 2007, I began to work on political campaigns to elect the kind of leaders who would stand up for my community.
I worked on political campaigns for progressive local, state, and federal candidates in Florida, New Mexico, and New York. I worked on immigration and immigrants’ rights issues as a Legislative Assistant and Deputy Chief of Staff to then U.S. Congressman Jared Polis, and as the Chief of Staff for New York Senator Gustavo Rivera. But after working in government and advocacy for many years, I decided to become an attorney and be able to provide legal assistance directly to those most in need.
I joined Yale Law School’s ACS Chapter my first year in law school. The organization brought speakers to campus who inspired me and reminded me why I had gone back to school to be an attorney. I served on the board of Yale’s ACS chapter, including a term as Co-President. While in law school, I co-founded the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and am now the Co-Executive Director of the organization. ASAP provides community support and emergency legal aid to asylum seekers seeking safe haven in the United States regardless of where they are located. We have worked with asylum-seeking families in over 40 states and are now serving families forced to live in camps on the Mexican side of the Mexico-U.S. border.
ACS was supportive of my work as a law student and Next Generation Leader, and continues to support me in my role at ASAP especially as we are working with clients to hold the government accountable for mistreatment in immigration detention, including the trauma of family separation, through litigation, media and policy.