Published March 31, 2014
Jersey Vargas hoped for a miracle – and got one, in just days, no less.
Last Wednesday, the 10-year-old California girl met with Pope Francis at the Vatican to tell him about her father, who faced deportation.
On Friday, her father, Mario Vargas, was released from the Louisiana immigrant detention center where he has been held while in deportation proceedings following an arrest last year in Tennessee for driving under the influence, for which he was convicted.
Jersey reunited with her father, who left the facility after a relative posted a $5,000 bond, at Los Angeles Airport.
"It was the best thing ever," Jersey was quoted by CBS as saying. "I didn't celebrate my birthdays because my dad wasn't with me. I've been waiting for him."
Her father was overwhelmed by his daughter’s advocacy on his behalf.
"I don't have the words to describe of the actions that she was able to do," he said, through an interpreter, according to CBS.
His fate here is uncertain. He still faces deportation.
"I feel very proud because I had been fighting for him for a very long time," said Jersey. "It's been very hard since my dad hasn't been home. My mom has had to be the provider for my family, she's been the mother and father for two years."
Mario Vargas' release came after his daughter, of Panorama City, Calif., addressed the pope last week as part of a California delegation that traveled to urge the Vatican to prod President Barack Obama on immigration reform.
The girl and a teenager went as part of the 16-member group to represent the American children of immigrant parents who are afraid their families will be divided by deportation. The president and the pontiff met for the first time Thursday.
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said an immigration judge will determine the outcome of Vargas’s deportation case.
Lola Vargas said she had been gathering money to pay for her Mexican husband's bond but didn't have enough until one of his cousins called, surprised to see the girl on television, and offered to help. Her husband had gone to Tennessee to look for work in construction and had been sending money to his family in California, she said.
Juan Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant advocate who coordinated the trip to Italy, said the archdiocese of Los Angeles helped get the group a key spot so they could speak with Pope Francis amid the crowds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.