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Girl reunites with dad after asking pope to save him from deportation

A 10-year-old girl was reunited with her father Saturday after asking the pope to save her dad from deportation.
March 30, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a tear-jerking reunion at LAX for a 10-year-old girl and her father.

Jersey Vargas of Panorama City made headlines when she traveled to the Vatican and spoke with Pope Francis about the release of her father, who was facing deportation from the U.S.

The trip was part of a California delegation that traveled to urge the Vatican to prod President Barack Obama on immigration reform. Jersey was part of the 16-member group to represent the American children of immigrant parents who are afraid their families will be divided.

"It's been very hard since my dad hasn't been home," she said. "My mom has to be the provider for my family; she's been the mother and father for two years."

When in Rome, Jersey managed to work her way to the front of the line and snag the pope's attention before he was scheduled to meet with Mr. Obama for the first time.

"First, I told him 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," said Jersey. "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."

Her presence at the Vatican helped her family's case. On Saturday night, she saw her father, Mario, for the first time in two years after arriving at the airport following a long flight from Rome.

Her father was convicted of driving under the influence in Tennessee last year and faced deportation. Jersey's mom, Lola, says her husband had gone to Tennessee to look for work in construction and had been sending money to his family in California. He was released from an immigration detention facility in Louisiana Friday after one of his cousins saw Jersey on TV and posted his $5,000 bond.

Jersey says she is glad to be back with her father, but her mission is not over yet.

"I'm gonna keep fighting for other children who are also in my same situation because right now I already have my dad back. I've been trying to have him back with me, and now that I have him back, I wanna fight for other children too," she said.

Mario isn't in the clear just yet. He still has to face a judge, who will determine the outcome of his immigration case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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