Catalina Cruz can hardly walk through Jackson Heights in Queens without being recognized now.
The housing attorney ran a grassroots campaign for the state Assembly in Thursday's Democratic primary.
She estimates her team knocked on 30,000 doors. It was a tight race, but Cruz defeated the party-backed incumbent with 53 percent of the vote.
Cruz says her journey to the Assembly started long before pounding the pavement in Queens.
"This win today is for all those undocumented parents that are still out there fighting for kids like me," she said during her victory speech to supporters.
Cruz was born in Colombia and was a so-called "Dreamer," one of the young immigrants brought to the United States as a child without documentation. She was nine at the time and had undocumented status for the next 13 years.
"I suffered through it," Cruz said. "I understand what it means to be told or made to feel like you're not good enough because you don't have a piece of paper, while still loving this country just as much."
The daughter of a single mother, Cruz worked 50 to 60 hours a week while putting herself through John Jay College and CUNY Law School. She gained her citizenship in 2009, after marrying her high school boyfriend.
Cruz says, inspired by her own undocumented past, she always planned to run for office, but President Donald Trump's election and his hard line toward the undocumented jumpstarted her political career.
"It really propelled me to want to fight for our community, for families like mine," Cruz said.
The 39th Assembly district encompasses Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst. According to Census data, almost 58 percent of the population is foreign-born. Cruz says that in past primaries it was normal to only see about 1,600 people vote in the district. But this year, the number quadrupled.
"That is unprecedented for a community like ours," Cruz said. "So we are absolutely galvanized and energized by him in office."
Cruz is now poised to become the first "Dreamer" elected to office in New York state, and the third nationally.
She is running unopposed in the November election. But she says for her, the hard work is only beginning.