Sophie Cruz became an instant celebrity when she approached Pope Francis’s motorcade to hand him a letter begging him to help her keep her parents in the United States. Her message was simple, coming from a five-year-old, yet it carried more power and conviction than any of the hateful rhetoric that has been dominating the airwaves. Sophie Cruz wants to stop living with the fear that her undocumented parents may, at any time, be taken from her and deported. You see, Sophie is a full-fledged U.S. citizen, a right guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to all who are born in the United States. Her parents, however, are undocumented immigrants living in the confines of the underground world that our current immigration system has created. They are unable to legalize their status, yet work hard and contribute to their communities. Sophie’s father, Raul, came to the United States ten years ago and works long hours at a factory to provide for Sophie and the rest of his family. Like many aspiring Americans, they are struggling to make ends meet, stuck in the purgatory of our unworkable immigration laws. Sophie’s parents represent our country, they represent the opportunity for a better America, and the future that Sophie herself dreams of.
But what is Sophie asking for?
She said she was afraid Immigration and Customs Enforcement would come and take her parents away, and that she has a right to live with her parents. President Obama, through executive action, directed the Department of Homeland Security back in November of 2014 to establish clear priorities for enforcement. Yet, even with policies that target enforcement against those who are dangerous instead of families, Sophie’s parents remain at risk of deportation.
In addition to, and designed to work concurrently with, priority enforcement directives, the Administration announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) which would have allowed Sophie’s parents to register with the government, pay a fee, get a background check, and obtain work authorization, as well as temporarily protect themselves from deportation. The program, however, remains hostage to a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and 25 other states; states whose attorneys general cannot see the potential of hard working aspiring Americans, and the benefit to protecting the unit of families like Sophie’s.
Sophie declared she has the right to be happy – and yes, she does. It is the cornerstone of our American beliefs that every human being possesses by birth or by nature the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No one may rightfully deny us these things. Nor, since they are “inalienable,” may we surrender them.
As a child with undocumented parents, Sophie believes the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants deserve immigration reform. She also believes immigration reform is good for her country. It is amazing this young five-year-old has a much better understanding of what is good for her country than our Presidential hopefuls vying for the spotlight during the debate a few weeks ago.
Her message is clear: we must as a nation act to reform our immigration laws, it is good for our children, it is good for our economy, and it is good for the future of our nation. The question still remains whether the clarity and innocence of this young child can bring us back to the hopeful days of 2013 when the two parties in the Senate put political differences aside and crafted a workable solution to our dysfunctional immigration system. Can Sophie’s message reach the ears and open the hearts of our exclusionary leaders in the House who stalled the Senate bill? Will Speaker Boehner change his mind and push forward on immigration reform knowing that at the end of October his legacy as Speaker of the House will be set in stone?
So let’s take Sophie’s simple, concise, and constructive message to the halls of our government, to the streets of our communities, to the hearts of every American who believes in this great country that we and Sophie live in.
Written by Annaluisa Padilla, AILA First Vice President