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Washington — A 5-year-old girl in a brilliantly colored dress and braids who was handed up to Pope Francis for a blessing during a parade in Washington on Wednesday morning shared a message with the pontiff about immigration.

The girl, Sophie Cruz of South Gate, California, delivered a bright yellow T-shirt and a letter expressing wishes that Sophie’s mother and father and millions of others who are in the U.S. illegally are allowed to remain in the country, according to Gloria Saucedo, director of Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, an immigration advocacy group.

Sophie got beyond a barricade and approached the popemobile, carrying the T-shirt that read: “Pope: rescue DAPA, so the legalization would be your blessing.” It refers to a program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which would extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, but is on hold after 26 states sued to block it.

Sophie shied back when a bodyguard came near. But when the pope gestured to her, she allowed the bodyguard to pick her up and bring her forward for a papal kiss and blessing. A guard passed the shirt and message into the popemobile.

Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, based in Los Angeles, organized the trip to Washington from Southern California for six children and 19 adults, hoping to deliver their message on immigration, Saucedo said.

Sophie went with her 30-year-old father, Raul, who like her mother, came to the U.S. from Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca about 10 years ago. Sophie and her sister were born in the United States and are therefore American citizens.

“This has filled us with enthusiasm,” said Saucedo.

Sophie and her father will appear at a rally and news conference Wednesday evening at the Capitol. Rep. Julia Brownley invited Sophie to listen to the pope’s address to Congress on Thursday.

Cruz’s parents likely are not considered a priority for immigration enforcement. The Obama administration has repeatedly directed immigration agents to focus resources on serious criminal immigrants, people who pose a national security or public safety threat and those caught crossing the border illegally.

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