This blog post has been updated on 5/7/18 to reflect updates in Cruz’s story.
It started with a hand-written letter. Sophie Cruz, evading papal security, made headlines when she delivered her message to Pope Francis on September 23rd, 2015. She desperately wanted the pontiff to learn about the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, and the struggle for a legal path to citizenship:
“Pope Francis, I want to tell you that my heart is very sad, because I’m scared that one day ICE is going to deport my parents. I have a right to live with my parents. I have a right to be happy. My dad works very hard in a factory galvanizing metals. Immigrants like my dad feed this country. They therefore deserve to live with dignity, they deserve to be respected, they deserve immigration reform, because it would be beneficial to my country, and because they have earned it working very hard, picking oranges, onions, watermelons, spinach, lettuce, and many other vegetables. Don’t forget about us the children, or about those who suffer because they’re not with their parents because of war, because of violence, because of hunger.”
Sophie has not looked back. She caught the attention of President Obama, who invited her to the White House. Her parents could not come, because of their undocumented status.
Sophie has continued to educate others about immigration, showing how she, as an American citizen, may be separated from her parents if a path to citizenship is not established by Congress. She appeared at the Supreme Court in April of 2016 to listen to the hearing on DAPA, an extension of President Obama’s DACA program that would potentially have given her parents a temporary stay against deportation. While the court failed to deliver a decision on DAPA in June, Sophie continued to grow into her role as one of America’s most captivating young activists.
Free Like the Birds, a short film which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, reminded people that her fight to remain with her family, and the country she’s grown up in, continues to this day. The director of the short, Paola Mendoza, spoke to what Sophie has represented, to the 9 million people in mixed immigration status families, to the millions of migrants around the world.
“At the age of six, Sophie Cruz is our nation’s conscience. She is our movement’s inspiration. She is one of our leaders. She is why we fight.”
In October of 2016 Sophie put pressure on the most powerful politicians in the world, by submitting a question for a Presidential debate.
Though her question was not selected by the moderator, the debate about the possible selection of her question re-ignited the conversation about the future of mixed-status families in this country, and educated thousands about her family’s legal situation.
Sophie continued to spread her message, speaking at the 2017 Women’s March. She remarked:
“We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith, and courage, so that our families will not be destroyed. I also want to tell the children not to be afraid, because we are not alone.”
In 2018, her likeness was revealed as part of a mural entitled “Sophie Holding the World Together,” by El Mac (Miles MacGregor) at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. San Jose Museum of art curator Lauren Schell Dickens explained why Sophie was selected for this honor, “It’s a really hopeful image about what our future can be. She’s a girl. She’s young. I loved showing it to my nieces, who are nine. They’re pretty blown away that someone that young, someone their age, could have an impact, could inspire other people, could be featured in a monumentally sized wall mural.”
During her brief speech at the unveiling of the mural, Sophie remarked, “Thank you [El] Mac, for making each wall into something beautiful. And making the wall speak for those who cannot speak. We will keep fighting until the children can live without fear and with their parents.”