After meeting Pope, daughter of immigrants reunites with father

Jersey Vargas (bottom center) meets Pope Francis after the General Audience at St. Peter's Square, March 26, 2014. Credit: Catholic Coalition for Immigration Reform.

The young girl who asked Pope Francis to intercede with U.S. President Barack Obama on behalf of the children of deported immigrants has been reunited with her father after a two-year separation.

On March 26, 10-year-old Jersey Vargas met with Pope Francis and gave him more than 1,500 letters from children with similar stories to her own.

Just a few days later, on March 29, she was able to embrace her father, Mario Vargas, upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport.

Mr. Vargas, an undocumented immigrant detained by officials six months ago after he was caught driving without a license, was released from a federal detention center in Louisiana on March 28.

Unable to find work in Los Angeles, where his family was living, he had spent the previous two years working in construction in Tennessee and Louisiana.

“Words cannot express what my daughter has done for me,” he told the Archdiocese of Los Angeles newspaper The Tidings.

“It’s been so difficult to be separated from my family. There are many men [in detention] that are suffering. They don’t want to be locked up away from their families – it’s a sad place.”

Commenting on her experience meeting Pope Francis, the young Vargas told reporters, “For me he is a marvelous person. He’s the closest to God.”

She said that when she asked the Holy Father to intercede with U.S. President Barack Obama for her father, the Pope responded, “Yes, I will talk to the president about this.”

Pope Francis met with Obama in the Vatican the following day, March 27.

“We have all felt a divine providence in this,” said Mario Vargas’ lawyer, Alex Galvez, who accepted the case pro bono. “We can’t explain how this has come to pass.”

The judge who heard Mr. Vargas’ case reduced bail from $15,000 to $5,000 on account of good behavior, Galvez said. While other obstacles still remain, he said that the toughest part is behind them.

“Jersey’s little voice has been heard across the United States,” Galvez said.

Before leaving for the Vatican, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles gave the young girl a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe to carry with her on the trip to the Vatican.

Vargas, who had been afraid to fly, said she found consolation in the gift, and knew the Blessed Mother was with her. Mario’s wife, Lola, sent an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the detention center, mixed in with family photos. It was a great solace to him as well.

“Please take care of my children, please take care of my children,” he would pray. “I kept asking God for help.”

Lola, who has carried the family financially while her husband has been in custody, believes God did just that.

“It’s a miracle,” she said. “God put people in our lives to help us.”


Voices

‘Digging a well together’

Father Ronald Rolheiser, OMI

Christian de Cherge, the Trappist Abbott who was martyred in Algeria in 1996, was fond of sharing this story: He had a very close Muslim friend, Mohammed, and the two of them used to pray together, even as they remained aware of their differences as Muslim and Christian.  

Aware too that certain schools of thought, both Muslim and Christian, warn against this type of prayer out of a sense that the various faiths are not praying to the same God, the two of them didn’t call their sessions together prayer. Rather they imagined themselves as “digging a well together.”

 

 

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