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Father of 10-year-old Jersey Vargas who met pope released

Mario Vargas-Lopez, father of the 10-year-old girl who made a personal plea to the pope, has been released from custody.
March 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mario Vargas-Lopez, father of the 10-year-old girl who made a personal plea to the pope, has been released from custody, according to immigration officials.

Vargas-Lopez has been away from his Panorama City family for two years, chasing construction jobs across the U.S. and sending money back to support his wife and kids. But he was arrested for drunk driving in Tennessee last September.

Vargas-Lopez was being held by immigration officials, but on Friday, he was released "on an immigration bond while he awaits the outcome of his immigration proceedings," a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said in a statement.

While Vargas-Lopez is in the U.S. illegally, his daughter, Jersey Vargas, is a U.S. Citizen. She flew to Rome with a group of immigration activists and managed to work her way to the front of the line to snag the pope's attention before he was scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama for the first time.

"First, I told him that please help me because my dad is in the process of deportation and I told him that it's also unfair that other families are also going through the same situation," Jersey said. "That's when he came close to me. He blessed me and he kissed me on my forehead. He told me in my ear that he was going to talk with the president."

It is not yet clear if Vargas-Lopez's release had anything to do with Jersey speaking with the pope.

"We are all happy for the family. He feels like he has been given a second life," attorney Alex Galvez said. "He just wants to work hard and provide for his family. Can't wait to be in L.A. tomorrow to meet up with Jersey."

The activist group, Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, has been working with Jersey's family.

Jersey's mother is busy getting their home ready for a long-awaited family reunion on Saturday. Dad will be flying in from Louisiana and daughter will be flying in from Rome. The mother said she's very proud of her daughter for being so courageous.

It's unknown when Vargas-Lopez will have his day in court. But his attorney says he is able to receive a work permit, a driver's license and a Social Security number so he can try to find work in Southern California.


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