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Sophie Cruz, a 5-year-old from Los Angeles, whose parents are undocumented immigrants, touched hearts Wednesday when she was lifted over a barricade and carried by security guards to greet Pope Francis as his motorcade slowed as he passed by the National Mall where thousands gathered along the streets to see him.
Sophie drew Pope Francis a picture of herself with him and her friends, all holding hands. On the drawing, the caption in Spanish read, "My friends and I love each other no matter the color of our skin."
Cruz and her father Raúl traveled to Washington to see the pope with La Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, an immigration advocacy group, with hopes of delivering their message about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Along with her letter and drawing, the little girl also handed Pope Francis a yellow T-shirt that read, "¡Papa Rescata Dapa!" The shirt, also worn by Raúl Cruz, refers to the program that would delay deportation of the undocumented parents of U.S.-born minors.
According to reports, Sophie's parents are originally from Tuxtepec, Oaxaca, a state along the western coast of Mexico. According to the executive director of La Hermandad, Alicia Flores, the advocacy group chose Sophie to deliver the important message to the pope and her dad agreed to let her participate in hopes that Pope Francis would be receptive. Flores told reporters Raúl Cruz came to the U.S. 10 years ago.
The little girl later told reporters that she hardly sees her dad because he works the night shift from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. in a Los Angeles factory. Both she and her sister are U.S. citizens, but she told reporters she lives in fear that she'll be separated from her parents if they're deported. She hoped her letter would help the pope to influence Congress to change immigration laws. And, she's got another letter she hopes to someday give to President Obama if she gets the chance.
Thursday morning, as Pope Francis addressed Congress, immigration was just one of the topics he touched upon, invoking members of Congress to remember where they may have come from, and to have compassion for others.
"We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants," Pope Francis said. "We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our "neighbors" and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiary, in a constant effort to do our best."
He continued: "Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal."
Meanwhile, Sophie and her dad returned to Los Angeles on Thursday, but they definitely completed their mission and brought hope to many immigrants and immigration reform supporters with Sophie's message.