Five-year-old Sophie Cruz, the daughter of two undocumented immigrants, reached the pope on her second attempt Wednesday after he motioned for her to approach his popemobile.
Sophie, of Los Angeles, wanted to meet with Pope Francis after becoming scared that her parents could be deported. Unlike her parents, she and her sister are American citizens.
“She lives it every day,” her father, Raul Cruz, said in Spanish. “She sees family get separated, and we always tell her the truth when she asks why.”
Security stopped Sophie as she first approached the pope during a parade at the Ellipse outside the White House. On her second attempt, after her father lifted her over the barricade, Francis motioned for her to come over, and security obliged.
The pope kissed her cheek and took her envelope, which included a letter about immigration and a photo with words that translate as “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color.” Sophie said her hope is that he can bring change to U.S. immigration laws.
“To speak with the president and Congress, for they can give ‘la reforma migratoria’ for all the immigrants,” she said, adding that she has a second letter to give President Obama someday.
Getting Sophie to the pope didn’t come without a bit of planning.
Alicia Flores, executive director of La Hermandad in Los Angeles, said the group chose Sophie to approach the pope after a similar plan worked in Rome involving another young girl. Raul Cruz, who came to the United States 10 years ago, then agreed to let his daughter partake in the plan so the pope could hear their message.
“The fathers and mothers of U.S.-born children live in complete uncertainty,” he said. “I believe Pope Francis was sent by God.”
Sophie says she rarely sees her father, because he works many days from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. in a Los Angeles factory. She hopes one day she won’t live in fear that her father could be forced out of the country they call home.
How did she work up the courage to reach the pope? “God made me like that,” she said.