“To me, as Latinos, we’re kind of like la raza de sofrito, we’re a little bit of everything- un todo de poco. If you have a global understanding of how immigration works and how it happens in real world time, all these journeys are connected.”

- Dr. Jesselly De La Cruz, Licensed Social Worker and Executive Director of the Latino Action Network Foundation


Jesselly on who she is, what she does, and why she does it...

“My name is Dr. Jesselly De La Cruz, I am a licensed clinical social worker, and I also work as the Director for the Latino action network foundation. We’re a statewide nonprofit that focuses on policy, research, and advocacy on issues that affect latino immigrant communities. I’ve been doing that since 2017! I do it because I believe in systems changing. Even in my clinical practice with people, I work from a systems perspective, and I just bring that to the LAN Foundation.”

LANF is part of the Alliance because...

“To me, as latinos, we’re kind of like la raza de sofrito, we’re a little bit of everything- un todo de poco. If you have a global understanding of how immigration works and how it happens in real world time, all these journeys are connected. That's the main reason why we support the Alliance. People travel from all over the world to get here, including Latin America. To me, if it affects one part of our community, it affects all of us. Latinos are a lot of different things, so you can't really separate any of the intersectional identities- that’s what makes the work we do so complex.”

To Jesselly, it's important to achieve policies that uplift and empower immigrants because...

"To me, immigrants are part of the fabric of society. When you have one sector of the society or economy that is significantly oppressed or lacking fair wages, not having basic human rights, that affects all of us. Nobody lives on an island, so if we’re not directly impacted by it, we’re definitely indirectly impacted by it. We’re all bearing witness to it. It’s important to have a collective response to treat all immigrants coming here with basic human decency. “

How Jesselly brings her intersectional identities to her work...

“A friend of mine, her name is Luisa Torres, she’s a part of LUPE, she told me once that as a Latina woman, our existence is a form of resistance. Being a queer person, it’s important to me that we have people that are representative of these communities at the forefront, so I make sure to bring all of these intersectional identities to LAN”

Jesselly is a proud social worker. Here are some takeaways from her experiences: 

“There's a lot of terrible things in the world. In my direct practice, I worked with survivors of trauma, violence, incarceration, and violent oppressive systems. I think it’s really hard sometimes for people to find hope. I always keep in mind that I work with people who have been through really horrible stuff, and within a year or two of them having a safe space, seeing a good mental health provider, being listened to and being supported, and having a community around them, they’re able to overcome things that were meant to kill them, either physically or even spiritually. I always think about that- how people overcome these terrible things. And given the right kind of conditions, they’re Able to get better. I bring that to LAN, and I think about all the ways that we can make lives better. Things like Cover All Kids, how great is that? Undocumented children can finally have health coverage! I treated so many immigrant children in mental health practice that didn’t have health insurance or hadn’t ever seen a dentist in their lives. And you couldn’t stabilize them because it’d destabilize the whole family. If a kid had ADHD, he couldn’t get the medication because the mother couldn’t afford the medication, or if they’re undocumented and cant get insurance, or if they don’t make enough money, now he’s being disruptive in school and now she’s losing out of a job. It just compounds itself, and we can do really big things like that, even if it is incremental, it trickles down and it matters. For me, these things give me hope to do the work.”

One of LANF’s initiatives is unifying Latina women to take on leadership and elected positions in government. It's so important to Jesselly to have these backgrounds at the forefront of issues because...  

“This is purely self interest! It’s important to have women like me in power to remind all these white men what the truth is. Like hey, people need rights, access to healthcare, the right to choose, access to child care. All these things matter. We make the government better. We give a very much needed perspective. The reason our society has so many issues is because women have been oppressed, especially women of color, and not been allowed into these spaces for so long to help the government to actually work. That's what we’re fighting for now: our basic rights to choose, to give safe birth, to be cared for, to have menstrual pads for you available in school. These are basic needs that have been invisible forever. That's why we need women at the table to remind people what 50% of the population is. When we send young women to these events, they're usually facilitated by Dr. Patricia Medina Campos, Laura Matos, these women who are very prominent in state government and party politics. They teach about the campaign trail and what it looks like, what it means to run, how to get support and more. To me, it's not even about having women run, but just women of color who can shape campaigns. Young people come and volunteer and become involved with LAN, and I tell them that there's a lot of things that you can do in this world, and a lot of jobs you can have, and this is how you can make it happen. So we do a lot of that with LatinaCivic, because we need the political consultants of tomorrow- but I need to hand stamp them first!”

A fun fact about Jesselly that not many people know:

“I’m actually pretty athletic, and I like to incorporate that into my adult life. I’ve run 5Ks, and I go for lots of walks with my dog. I really am into getting moving as much as I can! My personal adult dream goal is to learn how to swim so that I can learn to row.”

What she's reading right now:

“Right now, I’ve been carrying around I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican daughter by Erica Sanchez.”

Jesselly's biggest inspirations:

“My family, my spouse, and definitely other women. Seeing other women in leadership positions is definitely inspiring to me. In particular, not so much women in politics, but I was watching something about women in rock. I love music, so it's really cool to see these women rocking out and what it must have been like. Politics is very male dominated, so I can imagine what music must’ve been like!”


Check out more about the Latino Action Network Foundation here!

Purchase " I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter" here