Young LA activist who pleaded with pope remains powerful voice for undocumented

and Jessica Dominguez
Saturday, January 20, 2018 10:04PM
You may remember Jersey Vargas, a tiny activist from Panorama City who managed to get the pope's attention in hopes of saving her dad from deportation.


PANORAMA CITY, LOS ANGELES - "First I told him ... to please help me because my dad is in the process of deportation."

In 2014, Jersey Vargas from Panorama City was just 10 years old when she flew to Rome without family hoping to somehow speak with Pope Francis and plea for his help: Her father was being detained at the time by immigration authorities. Joined by immigration activists, she managed to weasel her way to one of the most powerful men in the world, Pope Francis.

"It was a rainy day. That's when the pope was finally there, and I just poured my heart out," Vargas said.

Last year in March, Anabel Munoz met with the now 14-year-old as she recounted that very special moment -- still so vivid in her mind.

"I didn't know why I felt so much emotion. I thought that everything was going to go very seriously and like a serious talk. But no I just felt like a lot of emotion because I know he's the person that's closest to God and I just gave my goal, my mission. I told him can you please help my family because my dad is going to be deported and please help the 11 million immigrants," she said

When asked how the pope responded, she said: "He kissed me on my head over here, and he told me he was going to speak to the president, and he kissed my forehead."

Pope Francis was meeting with then-President Barack Obama. A few days later, her father Mario Vargas was released. He had been convicted of driving under the influence.

When her dad was released a few years ago, she made this commitment back in 2014.

"I've been trying to have him back and now that I have him back, I want to fight for other children too," she said.

And she remains true to her word. The teen says taking on a public role is not easy.

"I feel I have to be a voice for people who have a fear of not being able to make a change in the world. Whats important is that we actually tried to make a change. Even if we don't achieve it, we at least tried," she said.

The future for the Vargas family is uncertain. Her father remains in removal proceedings with his case still pending. However, she clings to hope, even to the possibility that President Donald Trump could have a change of heart.

"I'm just really hoping for President Trump to at least change on his opinion of the immigrant people here," she said. "Hoping for him to bring justice, fairness and equality for our people. I'm just hoping for him to run this country and go down as one of the greatest men that created immigration reform."

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