Many people who commit a minor criminal offense are generally allowed to return to their normal lives afterward and face the consequences in court. But immigrants, whether or not they have a green card, face much more daunting repercussions: extensive jail time and potentially deportation. Such is the case of Mario Vargas, who was arrested for driving under the influence in 2013 in Tennessee, where he was seeking work in the construction industry to support his family. He was taken into federal custody in early March 2014 and held in immigration detention.
According to the Associated Press, Vargas was in detention in Louisiana under a $5,000 bond. His wife, Lola Vargas, has been attempting to earn enough money to free him from jail, but she was already having trouble making ends meet to care for her family. That’s when Vargas’ daughter, Jersey, stepped in. The 10-year-old girl from Panorama City, Calif., traveled to the Vatican to speak to Pope Francis directly regarding her father’s situation.
The whole thing was recorded and aired on television. While the Pope was not able to offer any help to the young girl, one of the family’s relatives saw Jersey pleading with him on TV and offered to help pay the bond. Vargas was soon able to pay the $5,000 and was released from the detention facility on March 28.
Jersey’s trip to the Vatican was a part of an organized excursion by a California delegation that aimed to implore the Pope to convince President Barack Obama to push immigration reform. She traveled with an older friend and 14 other advocates of reform who represent the kids of immigrants who live in constant fear that their parents will be deported.