Young girl sneaks past barricade to meet Pope Francis, urges immigration reform

Five-year old Sophie Cruz, who snuck through barrier to meet Pope Francis says she fears her parents will be deported, and her Congressional representative says Sophie and her family are “not a threat”.

WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 23, 2015)(UNRESTRICTED POOL) – A five year old girl who was embraced by Pope Francis as he drove up a parade route in Washington DC on Wednesday (September 23) is appealing for immigration reform, saying she is fearful her parents will be deported.

Sophie Cruz snuck over the barrier as crowds lined the parade route and was carried to the Pope by the secret service after he called her over.

Sophie handed the pope a drawing of the pontiff holding hands with a multicultural group of children.

The daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants who live in Los Angeles, American citizen Sophie on Thursday (September 24) appealed for the pope to push for immigration reform.

“I would like to ask you [the Pope] to speak with the President and Congress in legalizing my parents because every day I am scared that one day they will take them away from me,” she said, as her father Raul carried her.

Cruz said immigrants like her father deserves to stay in the U.S.

“They deserve to live in dignity, they deserve to live with respect, they deserve immigration reform because it benefits my country,” Cruz said.

The Washington Post reports that Sophie’s attempt to meet the Pope was planned by the Los Angeles group Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional to draw attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants.

Raul Cruz, who said he immigrated ten years ago, took his daughters to meet Los Angeles Congressman Tony Cardenas on Thursday.

Cruz said he came to America for the sake of his daughters.

“We are many parents who are searching for a safe future for our children, because we came here to work for them,” he said.

Sophie Cruz’s emotional appeal to the Pope comes at a time of intense debate over immigration.

Harsh rhetoric toward illegal immigrants has featured heavily in the race for the Republican nomination for the November 2016 presidential election.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump says he would deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants if he were elected to the White House and has accused Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals across the border.

Congressman Cardenas said that immigrants like the Cruz’s should not be thought of as a threat.

“What Sophie did when she jumped that barrier and the Pope said ‘bring her to me’, I would venture to believe that the pope realized she’s not a threat. And that’s one of the things I want people to realize – the Cruz family is not a threat. They’re not hurting anybody. He works in a mill. He works hard just to feed his family. And that’s been the tradition of the United States of America, immigrants coming here, people who were born here, people born all over the world coming here and giving it their best,” he said.

In a historic speech to Congress on Thursday Pope Francis beseeched Americans to end hostility toward immigrants, weighing in forcefully on the divisive issue.

The appeal by Francis, born to an Italian immigrant family in Argentina,

received frequent applause mostly from Democrats but also from Republicans among the lawmakers.

Himself a Latin American, Francis was speaking out on an issue that has cost the Republicans support among increasingly influential Hispanic voters.

He said America should not be put off by the number of foreigners, especially from south of the border, who are trying to make it their home.

The United States has grappled for years over what to do with 11 million or so undocumented immigrants, most of them Hispanic.

Republicans in Congress last year blocked a bipartisan effort to overhaul immigration laws that would have allowed illegal immigrants a chance to win U.S. citizenship.