Things That Matter

Meet 8-Year-Old Latina Immigration Activist Sophie Cruz Who Is Changing The Conversation On Immigrant Rights

It’s a scary time right now for immigrants in the U.S., and nobody feels that more profoundly than 8-year-old Sophie Cruz, daughter of undocumented parents.

You’ve probably already heard of her from when she made international headlines when she handed the Pope a heartbreaking letter entrenched in her fear of ICE. She was just five years old then. Latina girls may just change the world.

Sophie Cruz is an American citizen of Oaxacan heritage.

@JuanSaaa / Twitter

Her parents came to the U.S. without documentation from Oaxaca, Mexico. She has a little sister, who, in the photos, hilariously seems pretty stoic about her hermana’s stage presence.

It all started on September 23, 2015, when she made it past the barricades to get to Pope Francis.

@tkbcinhayward / Twitter

She was desperate to hand him a letter to beg for help for her undocumented parents. He stopped the parade to give her a blessing and a hug.

They are why she was so desperate to make it past what the NYT called “one of the largest mobilizations of security officers in American history.”

@paolamendoza / Twitter

They had all traveled from Los Angeles to see the pope with an immigration activist group called the Catholic Delegation for Reform.

Security eventually stopped her but the Pope saw her run out from the crowd and invited her to come closer.

@yatzirizepeda / Twitter

Her courage and determination didn’t happen on a whim. She truly hoped to meet the Pope to ask for his help.

“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.”

@fforrfeminism / Instagram

The letter she eloquently shared with the Pope goes on to say, “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.”

Oh and also, she wrote:

“Don’t forget about us the children…”

@latinaspoderosas / Instagram

“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.”

She even gave the Pope this muy bella drawing.

@ngjennings / Twitter

That super colorful dress and girl with the braids is how Sophie Cruz sees herself. Nos encanta.

The next day, the Pope brought up the issue with Congress.

@votolatino / Twitter

He had a joint meeting scheduled the next day 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.

The next year, she was invited to speak at the Washington Women’s March.

@MurielBowser / Twitter

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.”

She gave her speech in both English and Spanish. 😭

@Weasal / Twitter

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 and tender to snuggle in this path of life.”

“Let’s keep together and fight for our rights. God is with us.”

@MurielBowser / Twitter

When she started speaking in Spanish, her mom just straight up started weeping.

Cruz became the face of DAPA, and sat in Supreme Court hearings to consider protections for parents.

@paolamendoza / Twitter

Beforehand, she spoke in front of five thousand immigrants, families and supporters in front of the Supreme Court. That said, her prominence has meant that she’s had to do a lot of this without her parents.

She met with President Obama and Joe Biden.

@LaCasaBlanca44 / Twitter

Her parents couldn’t pass background checks to enter the White House because of their status, so she went with documentary filmmaker Paola Mendoza. When Cruz isn’t speaking into a microphone to advocate for immigrants, she’s subtly wearing mariposas on her meet-POTUS dress in homage to migrants.

In October 2016, she submitted a question for the Presidential debate.

@elisafayemakes / Twitter

The question read, “If you deport my parents, what happens to me? I am 6 years old and an American citizen. I have a 3-year-old sister who is also an American. My heart is very sad, because I’m scared that ICE is going to deport my undocumented mommy and daddy.”

The question was not aired.

Even though she’s more than a decade away from being able to vote, she wants you to get the vote out.

@CalEndow / Twitter

Also, we must comment on her repping Oaxacan indigenous clothing in the cutest possible way, always.

Cruz has become a political icon for immigration activists.

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And there is a ton of artwork on the Internet to prove it. She’s the muse for hope for change.

The San Jose Museum of Art recently created a mural in her honor in October 2018.

@sjmusart / Twitter

Caption: “The #SophieCruz mural of hope is already inspiring our community members. Stop by @PurpleMuseum to check its progress.”

Define American named her “Activist of the Year” in 2018.

@DefineAmerican / Twitter

Caption: “Sophie Cruz is our Activist of the Year for her advocacy for undocumented families.” Get it, girl!

The county of Los Angeles has even awarded her for her activism.

@HildaSolis / Twitter

Politician Hilda Solis invited Cruz to share her message in front of the County Board of Supervisors. Cruz deserves all these awards and more.

What Cruz really deserves is to feel like her family is safe.

@DavidCamposSF / Twitter

And while her parents have not been deported, likely due to the public outcry at this point, they could be legally deported at any time. 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.

Thank you, Sophie. You’re our hero.

READ: Sophie Cruz’s Mom Wiping Her Tears As She Watched Her 6 Year Old Speak At The Women’s March Is All Of Us

ICE Showed Up At An Oakland Raiders Game And The Community Wonders, Where Next?

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ICE Showed Up At An Oakland Raiders Game And The Community Wonders, Where Next?

Raiders / Instagram

Outside of a school or courthouse. A place of business such as a meat factory plant. A traffic stop. Outside your home. What do all of these locations have in common? These are all place where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have shown up to detain, roundup, and arrest undocumented people. They can also show up just about anywhere, even sports games. 

On the first day of the Raiders season —during a game against the Denver Broncos — the real commotion wasn’t on the football but rather outside in the parking lot where ICE showed up. 

Credit: Instagram/@raiders

On Sept. 9, at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, ICE was there to seize unofficial Raiders merchandise. It’s unclear if they were there looking for undocumented people, or whether they believed the vendors of the unofficial Raiders merchandise were undocumented people. Either way, ICE agents took all of the fake swag. 

ICE reports they seized $11,000 worth of counterfeit goods. ICE also claims that last week’s seizure is part of a nationwide trend of illegal merchandise that generates $1.4 billion a year. 

Credit: Instagram/@itstartedinoaklandbaby

“Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Francisco is committed to conducting intellectual property theft investigations throughout the year and preventing the sale of counterfeit goods during the home opener of the Oakland Raiders is just one example of HSI working to ensure that the public is purchasing legitimate products” Tatum King, special agent in charge, HSI San Francisco and Northern California, said in a press release statement. King added, “The lost revenue equals lost jobs and counterfeit materials typically contain substandard products and can also be a safety risk to the public.”

Here’s what ICE said you should look for when purchasing your Raiders gear: 

Credit: Instagram/@BzioaFenxn3

  • Shop at authorized retail locations, such as the official team stores rather than buying items from street vendors, flea markets, online auctions or other questionable sources
  • Buy tickets from authorized dealers
  • Look out for ripped tags or irregular markings on apparel
  • If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. While some counterfeiters may attract fans with a low price tag or 2-for-1 deal, just as many try to legitimize their merchandise with a higher price point.

“Oakland Raiders fans attending the first game of the season deserve genuine products and the proceeds of counterfeit merchandise ends up in the hands of transnational criminal organizations engaged in varying types of illegal activities,” King stated. King didn’t elaborate or give evidence as to the type of criminal organizations they have arrested in the past. 

People on social media were not pleased to hear that ICE attended an NFL game during the kick-off of Hispanic Heritage Month.

It is definitely clear that ICE wanted to show their presence at an NFL game especially when an overwhelming amount of Latinx were expected to show up. 

This is not the first time ICE and the NFL have partnered up. ICE has paid for commercials during the Super Bowl games.

It’s not clear whether these campaigns launched by ICE — that included the hashtag #TackleICE — but it’s not so much about whether something works or doesn’t. ICE wants to get their message across that they are everywhere, and there’s no denying that. 

Some on social media some wondered now that Jay Z is an official NFL employee whether he will speak up against ICE and about how they’re targeting Latinos. 

Last month, the NFL announced that they “formally launched the Inspire Change initiative in early 2019, after more than two years of work with NFL players, with the goal of creating positive change in communities across the country.” The NFL added, “Through this initiative, NFL teams and the league office work with the Players Coalition and other NFL players to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on three priority areas: education and economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform.”

“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country,” Jay Z said in a press release. “Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas — instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”

Do these communities include undocumented immigrants? 

We will have to wait and see how Jay’s involvement will help the Latino community, especially as the NFL is clearly targeting them. 

ICE also failed to disclose why they were targeting illegal merchandise since that doesn’t seem to all under the umbrella of immigration. Also, if ICE is showing up at games, you know they will definitely be attending the Dodgers games as well. Just for a heads up, here’s the entire Raiders season schedule 

READ: ICE Had A Super Bowl Campaign But Immigrant Advocates Clapped Back With #TackleICE

A Trump Immigration Judge Threatened A Toddler With An Unreal Punishment If He Didn’t Settle Down

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A Trump Immigration Judge Threatened A Toddler With An Unreal Punishment If He Didn’t Settle Down

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If President Donald Trump had a Glassdoor profile for his administration, it would not be a positive one. Consider for a moment all of the people that have come and gone since his election (even prior). The man has seriously had an influx of employees that have been fired, arrested, tried in court, and some that have just vanished. The most surprising aspect about this revolving door of employees is that regardless of the job title, Trump can always find someone else for that job no matter if they’re qualified for that job or not. One of his latest hires — not for National Security Adviser John Bolton who just got fired yesterday — but rather an immigration judge sure has a murky past. (Maybe they forgot to do a background check?) 

Judge V. Stuart Couch was placed on the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals last month, but his record shows that he once threatened a toddler in court that a dog would bite him if he didn’t behave. 

This story at first sounds hilarious and unbelievable, but it’s actually quite disturbing and very real.  According to a Mother Jones report in 2016, Couch told a Guatemalan toddler who was in court for an asylum hearing to stop making noise or else he would get a dog to attack him. The boy was in a courtroom in Charlotte, North Carolina with his mother. The pair were in a hearing in Couch’s courtroom where he would decide their fate over whether they would get asylum or not. 

The judge told the 2-year-old: “I have a very big dog in my office, and if you don’t be quiet, he will come out and bite you!”

The entire exchange between the heated judge and the toddler was witnessed by Kathryn Coiner-Collier, a then a coordinator for a project run by the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy. Coiner-Collier recounted her story to Mother Jones and said that she, along with the boy, and his mother, experienced trauma unlike ever before. She said that Couch scolded this young boy to behave and made a Spanish translator tell the boy exactly what he was saying. 

“Want me to go get the dog? If you don’t stop talking, I will bring the dog out. Do you want him to bite you?” Coiner-Collier recalled to the publication. For anyone wondering how she could remember what Couch said in 2016, Coiner-Collier wrote down every single work the judge said because not only was it incredibly terrible but she needed a record of what happened that day. Coiner-Collier also believed Couch would possibly bring the dog in the courtroom because it’s very typical for police dogs to be sniffing around. 

The boy was eventually removed from the courtroom and the entire family was left traumatized by the judge’s outburst. Coiner-Collier said that she has witnessed Couch be a “fair and thorough” judge in previous cases, but that he definitely has a temper. 

Couch ended up removing himself from the case. The following judge who heard the asylum case on this young boy and his mother from Guatemala ended up rejecting their case. The mom has now filed an appeal. But here’s the ironic twist. 

Now that her asylum case is headed to the appeals court, and the new judge could be…you guessed it:  Judge V. Stuart Couch. 

Couch was one of six new hires on the Justice Department’s Board of Immigration Appeals and his record for rejecting asylum cases is just what you would expect. This tidbit of facts by Mother Jones is especially interesting: 

“All six judges reject asylum requests at a far higher rate than the national average; Couch granted just 7.9 percent of asylum claims between 2013 and 2018, compared to the national average of about 45 percent. (Before becoming an immigration judge, Couch served as a military prosecutor and attracted widespread attention for refusing to prosecute a Guantanamo detainee because he had been tortured.).”

People on Twitter were livid, though not surprised, to find out that a judge like Couch would now be calling the shots in immigration appeals court.

Laila L. Hlass, a law professor tweeted, “Is #immigrationtwitter surprised Judge Couch, known for trying to end refugee protections for domestic violence survivors also threatened a 2 yr old child in court with a dog attack? Or that he was recently promoted? In a word, no. #immigrationlaw.”

It’s almost as if Trump hired this judge for the very reason that he threatened a 2-year-old.

We know the type of people Trump likes on his side, including racists types such as Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, who he pardoned in 2017. And let’s not forget Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Shall we go on?

READ: Judge Says Immigration Officials Didn’t Follow Protocol With DREAMer Jessica Colotl