Op-Ed: A DREAMers View of The Espinal-Cruz Race

Assemblywoman Ari Espinal , center, with supporter. Photo by Christian Spencer

Editors Note: It is the policy of Queens County Politics (QCP) to post all op-eds/letters to the editor with rare exception. The views expressed in these posts may or may not reflect the views of QCP.

There was a recent Op-Ed post on this site that made many false and highly inflammatory statements against Ari Espinal and her campaign in order to distract from very legitimate questions about Catalina Cruz’s residency.

One thing should be made immediately clear: Ari Espinal is the proud daughter of Dominican immigrants and has worked throughout her life to support immigrants, DREAMers, and all who call Queens home. She was on the frontlines of the fight for the NYS Dream Act seven years ago before most would even engage in a conversation alongside local organizations. During her time as director of constituent services for Assemblymember Francisco Moya, she personally intervened to help with immigration paperwork and to block deportations, and there are countless Queens families that are together and whole because of Ari.

I am a DREAMer who came to the U.S. when I was 10 years old. In 2012 when DACA was implemented for the first time Ari stood with me and hundreds of community members on that rainy day, waiting outside the middle school in Jackson Heights to received information about the program. To question her support of immigrants is an insult to the hundreds of people she has helped, just as it’s an insult to me personally.

Ari Espinal has fought for this community since she was a teenager, and everyone in our neighborhoods know she’s a true daughter of this community. She is not racist or xenophobic, but she is a passionate fighter for the best interest of her community — and that includes fighting to ensure we have honest representatives. To put it another way, Ari is one of us.

As an undocumented person, I know who has been on my side fighting for justice and who hasn’t. Over my last nine years of organizing in my community, there has been only one candidate who I know has been there, her name is Ari Espinal. Do I know Catalina Cruz? No, it was not until she started to run for office that I was able to know her, a former undocumented person, but if you ask me if I’ve seen her in Albany advocating for the NY Dream Act my answer is no. I know being a Dreamer it’s a catchy term nowadays, but let’s not use the term to lie to voters, if you were never active in a campaign, don’t try to take credit for something [when] you were not part of it.

It’s a little-known fact that candidates for public office in New York are required to live in the district they would represent for a full year prior to Election Day. Catalina didn’t move into Jackson Heights – and the community she wants to represent – until October 2017, right after a primary election that created an open Assembly seat. And until March of this year, she still owned a home in Kew Gardens, the community she had called home for —- years. Catalina’s residency problem was so serious she was unable to contest Ari in the April Election because she could not legally appear on the ballot.

Catalina has been repeatedly asked at debates and forums when she moved to Jackson Heights, and she has consistently refused to answer with a date – preferring instead to deflect with baseless charges of xenophobia to distract from the issue of her residency.

As the author of the other opinion piece correctly pointed out, we have a racist in the White House who is intent on lying to us all. We deserve leaders who will be honest with us, not career politicians who seek office for personal gain or who move into a community because they see an opportunity for a new title. People have lost faith in politicians, and candidates must be honest with the communities they hope to represent.

We need an authentic leader who has proven her loyalty through a lifetime of service and who will continue to fight day in and day out for all members of our community. That leader is Ari Espinal.

Antonio Alarcon is a Dreamer, he has been organizing his community for almost a decade. He has been published in the New York Times, El Diario, Remezcla and several other newspapers and outlets.

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