A 5-year-old girl became a national hero after she managed to break though Pope Francis' security operation on Wednesday to deliver him a personal letter detailing her fears of having her parents deported.
Pope Francis reaches to give a blessing to Sophie Cruz, 5, from suburban Los Angeles, during a parade in Washington, Wednesday, September 23, 2015. The pontiff then kissed the girl on the cheek and gave her a blessing before she handed him a letter she had written.
It refers to a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would extend deportation protection to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years. I want to tell you that my heart is sad because of the hate and discrimination towards immigrants in this country.
He went on to call for people to see refugees and other immigrants as human beings in need of compassion, rather than focus on the resources it would take to help them. They deserve to live with respect. The same day he met Sophie Cruz, he spoke to the country's bishops, praising them for their welcome of immigrants, "who continue to look to America, like so many others before them, in the hope of enjoying its blessings of freedom and prosperity". "Don't forget about the children, or anyone that suffers because they don't have their parents".
Cruz handed the Pope a t-shirt and a letter. Sophie's father, Raul Cruz, said it's a miracle they were in the right place at the right time of the encounter. While the pontiff's motorcade made its way past cheering crowds, one young girl decided to break away from the pack.
He said: "The fathers and mothers of U.S.-born children live in complete uncertainty". Pope Francis spotted her and asked a Secret Service agent to bring her over.
Her father speaks little English, but said the experience made him "so happy, so excited".
Sophie Cruz with her family. My dad works very hard in a factory galvanizing pieces of metal.
"It was a miracle", Cruz said in Spanish.
The youngster has since been invited to watch the pope address Congress on immigration today as part of his three-state tour of Washington, New York and Philadelphia.
"Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War", the pope said. Us children are the hope, the light and the future.