ALICIA A. CALDWELL
September 25, 2115
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sophie Cruz’s encounter with the pope during a parade in Washington this week looked to be one of those spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime-moments Francis has become known for.
But for 5-year-old Sophie, the chance to wrap her arm around the pope’s neck as he offered a hug, kiss and a blessing unfolded as perfectly as it was scripted by members of a coalition of Los Angeles-based immigration rights groups. For nearly a year the group had been preparing the young girl from suburban Los Angeles to make a dash for the popemobile to deliver a message about the plight of immigrant parents living in the country illegally.
They had even pulled off a similar public-relations coup a year ago in Rome with a 10-year-old girl meeting the pope.
“We planned to do this from the moment we learned he was coming to the States,” Juan Jose Gutierrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition told The Associated Press. “We have been working for a while now trying to sensitize the American public that dealing with immigration is not just dealing with the people who came in without proper documents but that we also have … countless children whose parents are undocumented.”
Gutierrez said the group decided to use the children of immigrants to represent their push for an immigration overhaul to the pope, a staunch supporter of migrants. “We have been looking for children to make the case that we as adults have been making for years,” he said.
If Sophie had been unsuccessful in Washington attracting the pope’s attention, Gutierrez said, she would have traveled with the group to New York and then Philadelphia to try again.
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