Two Students Receive 2022 Soros Fellowships for New Americans
Two Yale Law School students — an immigrant from El Salvador who is working to transform the criminal justice and immigration systems and the son of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who advocates for accessibility for all — are recipients of the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans.
Andrea Alejandra Deleón Cruz ’24 and Edward Friedman ’24 are among 30 recipients selected from a pool of over 1,800 applicants for the fellowship, a merit-based graduate school program for immigrants and children of immigrants. Fellows were selected for their potential to make significant contributions to the United States. They will each receive up to $90,000 in funding to support their graduate studies.
“Immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are an essential part of the United States,” said Fellowship Director Craig Harwood. “The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellows demonstrate the ingenuity and diverse perspectives that immigrants of all backgrounds bring to America’s graduate programs and to the country as a whole.”
Deleon Cruz was born and raised in El Salvador, where she and her single mother struggled with poverty and safety. They immigrated to the United States when Deleon Cruz was 6. Growing up in a low-income community in Los Angeles, Deleon Cruz witnessed how the cycle of income inequality and housing segregation led to higher crime rates, which in turn led to the overpolicing of her communities. As her friends and family members became victims of mass incarceration, Deleon Cruz began to grasp the institutionalized racism embedded in the criminal justice and immigration systems.
“While the law has often been used to subjugate members of my communities, it can also be transformed and utilized to liberate them,” Deleon Cruz said. “I love the field of law because , when in the hands of the right people, it has the power to uplift and protect people who are most vulnerable in the United States .”
Friedman, a native New Yorker who was raised in Brooklyn, is the first child of Jewish refugees who immigrated to the United States with their families from the former Soviet Union, later meeting in Brooklyn. Born with cerebral palsy in New York City and a power (motorized) wheelchair user, Friedman is a passionate disability justice advocate.
“My goal is to ensure disability representation among decision-makers,” Friedman said. “As a future attorney, I will use the law to push society past mere accommodation towards true equity and inclusion for people with and without disabilities.”
The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans was founded in 1998 to support immigrants and children of immigrants pursuing a higher education. The program was established in recognition of the contributions New Americans have made to American life and in gratitude for the opportunities the United States afforded the founders of the fellowship.
Yale Law School 2022 Soros Fellows Biographies:
Alejandra Deleón Cruz
A Questbridge Scholar, Deleon Cruz was the first person at her high school to be accepted to Stanford University. However, due to familial obligations, she attended UCLA as a Regent Scholar and Achievement Scholar. After two years, Deleon Cruz transferred to Stanford University where she majored in philosophy and spent her time researching public policy solutions to mitigate societal injustices, learning about unjust sentencing and prosecutorial discretion as an intern at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and through nonprofit work.
Following her college graduation, Deleon Cruz served as the project manager at Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project. At the project, she helped nonviolent inmates who had been sentenced to life under California’s Three Strikes Law get their life sentences overturned and gain their freedom after decades of incarceration. When COVID ran rampant in the prisons, Deleon Cruz created and managed a pro bono program where 35 nonproject attorneys represented clients that the Three Strikes Project did not have the capacity to represent.
At Yale Law School, Deleon Cruz is involved in the Capital Assistance Project where she conducts legal research and writes legal memos summarizing death penalty precedent in Alabama appellate courts for the Federal Defender’s office in the Middle District of Alabama. She is also a part of the Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic and provides legal representation in Connecticut state resentencing hearings.
A native New Yorker who was raised in Brooklyn, Friedman is the first child of Jewish refugees who immigrated to the United States as teenagers with their families from Moscow and Kyiv in the former Soviet Union. Prior to law school, Friedman was the policy and intergovernmental affairs coordinator at the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. In that role, Friedman was the main contact for stakeholders, including high-level New York City and state partners, on all policy and legislative matters related to people with disabilities.
At Yale, Friedman currently represents the Law School on the Graduate & Professional Student Senate and provides a voice for students with disabilities on the University Provost’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility Resources. He is also a member of the Disabled Law Students and Jewish Law Students Associations. Despite moving away from home to New Haven where he is living independently for the first time, Friedman remains deeply involved in New York City politics as well as the local disability community.
Like his parents who are both Brooklyn College alumni, Friedman is a proud product of The City University of New York (CUNY) system. He graduated as a valedictorian from Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, CUNY in May of 2018. There, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with certificates in public policy and human rights, as well as minors in legal studies and international relations. With a career at the nexus of legal advocacy and public policy implementation, Friedman plans to use his Yale Law degree to ensure disability representation among legal decision-makers and advance accessibility for all.