A five-year-old girl from Los Angeles broke through the security barricades lining a parade route honoring Pope Francis on Wednesday and hand-delivered a message pleading for immigrant rights in the U.S.
Sofi Cruz, a U.S. citizen and daughter of Mexican immigrants, tore her way through the barriers in downtown Washington, D.C., when the pontiff motioned to her from his motorcade. And with a lift from a security guard, Cruz wrapped her arms around the pope, handing him a t-shirt and letter before being whisked away.
Cruz’s parents are among the more than 4 million undocumented immigrants who have lived the last year in a legal limbo, waiting for the courts to make a final determination on President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, or DAPA for short, the program would let adults with U.S.-born children and legal permanent residents remain legally in the U.S. for three years.
On the front of her t-shirt gift for the Pope, Cruz made a simple appeal: “Papa Rescate DAPA” (In English, “Pope Rescue DAPA”).
In a series of interviews with reporters in both English and Spanish, Cruz said her letter to the pope asked him to speak with Obama and members of Congress to pass reforms to legalize all undocumented immigrants.
“All immigrants, just like my dad, need this country. They deserve to live with dignity. They deserve to live with respect. They deserve an immigration reform because it benefits my country,” she says in the clip. “Don’t forget about the children, or anyone that suffers because they don’t have their parents.”
Pope Francis has made dignity and immigrant rights central to his message in his first visit to the U.S. Later this week he will meet a young soccer league made up of unaccompanied minor children from Central America and stand at an altar hand-made by migrant day laborers. In Philadelphia, he is expected to give a sweeping speech on immigration and religious liberty while standing on the steps of Independence Hall.