KIPPster Spotlight: Changing the Conversation on Immigrants' Rights

Sophia with her family

Meet Sophie Cruz, a current 7th grader at KIPP Corazón Academy, known as one of the youngest activists in the world — “a political icon for immigration activists.” She is the daughter of two undocumented immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, living in the United States. Back in September 2015, at just five years old, Sophie decided to do something about migrants’ rights — she urged for support of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, which would've allowed her parents to remain in the U.S. legally. 

“After travelling to meet the Pope with her family, she broke through security measures to hand him a letter; her letter detailed how worried she was about her parents being deported and she begged the Pope for help.”1 At such a young age, she was expressing eloquent and moving words: 

“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. [...] 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 Cruz 

FREE LIKE THE BIRDS from Paola Mendoza on Vimeo.

In an interview with The Washington Post, “[Sophie] said she rarely sees her father, because he works many days from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. in a Los Angeles factory. She hopes one day she won’t live in fear that her father could be forced out of the country they call home.”2 

“She lives [with this fear] every day,” her father, Mr. Cruz, said in Spanish. “[Sophie] sees families get separated, and we always tell her the truth when she asks why.”3 

Pope Francis greeting the crowdAnd, when questioned with, “What do you want the Pope to do for you?” Sophie responded, 'To speak with the President and Congress, so they can give ‘la reforma migratoria’ for all the immigrants and my parents too.'”4

The next day the Pope “had a joint meeting scheduled ... with the United States Congress, and he took the opportunity to encourage more openness for immigrants and refugees. Five-year-old Sophie Cruz changed the Pope’s agenda.5 

Without a doubt, Sophie made an impact. She made a difference. She also handed the Pope a beautiful drawing with words that translate as, “My friends and I love each other no matter our skin color.”

Sophie Cruz's drawing she handed to Pope Francis

Recognized for her great activism, “the following year, [Sophie] was invited to speak at the Washington Women’s March. At this point, she was just 6 years old and speaking in front of tens of thousands of people. She began with this touching moment, '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.'”

Sophie not only delivered her speech in both English and Spanish, she brought the crowd to tears. She went on to say, “I also want to tell the children not to be afraid because we are not alone. There are still many people that have their hearts filled with love…”7 She's even taken the migrants' rights message to the White House and Supreme Court hearings, and has become the face of DAPA to consider protections for parents.

When Sophie isn’t meeting the Pope or the President, making international headlines, or taking center stage to motivate thousands, she is focused on her studies and helping others — especially at school. She’s certainly a sweet, bright young student that carries her school values with her — Pride. Purpose. Curiosity. Advocacy. “I think it's important to be an advocate so you can advocate for your needs, stressed Sophie. For example, if you need help in a subject, you need to advocate for that! In school, if you advocate for yourself, you're going to want to come to school.”

“There’s no doubt that [Sophie will continue] to achieve great things, but there’s also no doubt that she has the maturity to understand the devastation deportation would cause. [In fact,] her mom instructs her to call her godmother if that ever happens. It’s an uncertain future and one that weighs heavy on her now [11]-year-old shoulders.”But, as her parents described her, “She’s a fighter. She asks us to fight, always! She motivates us.” 

This incredible young child has inspired so many people around the world —  she’s become a symbol for hope. “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.”9 As stated in a recent Mitú article, “Sophie needs us all to dig deep past the exhaustion and hopelessness and unearth a passion like hers to create a safer future for all our kids.”

“Sophie Cruz is our nation’s conscience,” said film producer Paola Mendoza. “She is our movement’s inspiration. She is one of our leaders. She is why we fight [to be free like the birds].” 

A mural of Sophia

We, along with the over 22 million people in mixed immigration status families, thank you, Sophie!


1. Sophie Cruz and Migrants’ Rights. June 2021. Retrieved from www.girlmuseum.org

2. Meet Sophie Cruz, 5-Year-Old Who Gave The Pope a Letter Because She Doesn’t Want Her Parents Deported. September 2015. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com

3. Meet Sophie Cruz, 5-Year-Old Who Gave The Pope a Letter Because She Doesn’t Want Her Parents Deported. September 2015. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com

4. Meet Sophie Cruz, 5-Year-Old Who Gave The Pope a Letter Because She Doesn’t Want Her Parents Deported. September 2015. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com.

5. Meet 8-Year-Old Latina Immigration Activist Sophie Cruz Who Is Changing The Conversation On Immigrant Rights. March 2019. Retrieved from wearemitu.com.

6. Meet 8-Year-Old Latina Immigration Activist Sophie Cruz Who Is Changing The Conversation On Immigrant Rights. March 2019. Retrieved from wearemitu.com.

7. Sophie Cruz and Migrants’ Rights. June 2021. Retrieved from www.girlmuseum.org.

8. Sophie Cruz: Youth Activism: The Hope Amidst the Fear? December 2017. Retrieved from onthedotwoman.com.

9. Sophie Has Taken Us On Her Journey. October 2016. Retrieved from www.defineamerican.com.