From Undocumented Immigrant to NYPD Officer

Matías Sartorio (right), born in Argentina, became a police officer. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

When Matías Sartorio threw his white gloves in the air, his childhood dream of becoming a member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) finally came true. Of the 646 police officers who graduated on Thursday, the 25-year-old is the only one born in Argentina.

Sartorio arrived in the United States when he was 5 and was raised in Queens. He has always considered the U.S. his country.

His parents moved to New York because their native country was experiencing an economic crisis. “They worked very hard to give us opportunities to study, and they taught us to focus on school and not worry so much about money,” said Sartorio at the Police Academy’s graduation ceremony, held at Madison Square Garden.

His father, José Sartorio, 54, said that Matías’ path was not always secure, as he was undocumented throughout his educational years, from primary school until he graduated from John Jay College.

“Despite our efforts, he would sometimes ask us if he would ever become a U.S. citizen, and we – my wife and I – always told him yes, that if he had faith, that day would come,” said the proud father. Citizenship is a requirement to become a police officer.

The young man was able to obtain his citizenship in 2013 when he joined the U.S. Army. After three years of active service, he is now in the military reserve. Fifty-nine of the NYPD officers who graduated on Thursday belong to a branch of the military.

Matías is not the first one in his family to enter the police force. His wife Stephanie Sartorio, 23, graduated in January. “We are creating our own legacy,” he said, adding that his older brother also wants to join.

Stephanie, who was raised by her Chinese father and Ecuadorean mother in Queens, met Matías while playing soccer. They both aspire to climb up the ranks the way Commissioner James P. O’Neill did. O’Neill greeted the couple and their 2-year-old son after the ceremony.

While Stephanie is interested in fostering better relations between the community and the police, Matías would like to join the Emergency Service Unit or the Counterterrorism Unit.

“We are going to push one another to study together and get all the way up there, to make our names and the name of our family proud,” said the policewoman, who works at the 60th Precinct in Coney Island.

Matías’ brother, Leonardo, 27, hopes to be able to start studying at the police academy this summer. Also a military man, he said that he is happy to see his brother graduate. “We came here with very little,” he said, adding that, when they arrived, they would eat at a small table without chairs. “It is nice to see how far we have come and to have a family of police officers,” he concluded.

Graduate Matías Sartorio (left), with his brother Leonardo, who also wants to join the police force. (Photo via El Diario)

The new NYPD officers:

  • 646 people graduated from the police academy on Thursday.
  • The graduates represent 39 countries, 8 of them Hispanic:
    • Argentina: 1
    • Colombia: 2
    • Dominican Republic: 27
    • Ecuador: 5
    • El Salvador: 1
    • Guatemala: 1
    • Honduras: 2
    • Mexico: 1
  • 189 – 30 percent – of the graduates are Hispanic.
  • 145 – 22.45 percent – of the graduates are women.
  • The graduates speak 53 languages, and 156 of them – 23.5 percent – speak Spanish.
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