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Caroline Cruz, the new Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion for the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs. Photo: AL DÍA Archives.
Caroline Cruz, the new Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion for the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs. Photo: AL DÍA Archives.

Caroline Cruz joins Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs

The Latina legal professional will serve as the new Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion for the OIA.

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The Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA) recently announced that it has welcomed Caroline Cruz to its team.

Cruz, who is very familiar with the City, will serve as the new Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion, reporting dually to the OIA and the Office of Children and Families (OCF).

She had served as Chief of Staff for the Office of Children and Families (OCF) since August 2021. 

A career legal professional, Cruz has dedicated her life to creating justice systems that maintains accountability for all when it comes to individuals, children and families at the city, state, and federal levels. 

“I am a proud immigrant, part of the long tradition that has propelled this country forward from its inception,” said Cruz in a press release. 

It is her belief that meaningful immigrant inclusion is a guiding principle toward growth for any city. 

In Philadelphia, about 1-in-4 children live in a multilingual household.

To this end, Cruz said, “language justice and inclusion is the work of everyone who seeks to serve a diverse city.” 

In her new role as Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion, Cruz will use her legal expertise to create responsive government systems, with duties including: 

  • Working with the Office of Children and Families to systematize immigrant inclusion and language access practices in internal operations and external contracting protocols
  • Collaborating with the School District and community partners to implement Welcoming Sanctuary Schools policies. 
  • Coordinating with the Office of Immigrant Affairs and all city departments to document and expand immigrant-inclusive policies and practices and achieve Certified Welcoming designation through Welcoming America.

Cruz was originally born in El Salvador, prior to moving to the United States with her mother at the age of four. 

Growing up in Queens, Brooklyn, all she knew was diversity and immigrant communities. That, coupled with her mother’s experiences, allowed her to see firsthand the challenges immigrants often face in the United States, including language access and inclusion.

“As a first-generation immigrant, I know language is a powerful force that shapes society. Language can exclude communities in small and large irreparable ways every day,” said Cruz.

“When public policy is exclusionary it creates isolation, insecurity, fear, and engineers poverty. Inclusive investments, staffing and practices have the power to celebrate the lives of people structurally excluded and move us toward a more cohesive Philadelphia,” she continued. 

To some extent, those particular experiences played a part in her career path as a lawyer, earning her law degree at Penn Law School.

Since moving to Philadelphia, Cruz has been in several prominent roles, including as Assistant District Attorney, Assistant Chief Counsel for the Human Relations Commission, Deputy City Solicitor, and Assistant General Counsel for the School District of Philadelphia. 

More recently, in her role as Chief of Staff for the OFC, Cruz worked on the strategic development of initiatives that expand language access, operational alignment, and food security across departments and divisions, that include Parks and Recreation, The Free Public Library, Department of Human Services, PHLpreK, and Community Schools.

Prior to that, she worked on rule of law efforts supporting justice institutions for the US Department of Justice stationed abroad, and also investigated and litigated discrimination cases for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. 

“Expanding access to exceptional education, city services and just government is the driving compass of my legal career,” said Cruz.

Both her personal and professional experiences will drive her mission in her latest role as Director of Language Access and Immigrant Inclusion for the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs.

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