Ten year old, Jersey Vargas, who asked Pope Francis to help reunite her with her father—who is facing deportation—got her wish today when her father was released on bond from federal custody.
Mario Vargas-Lopez was released from a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in New Orleans, just two days after his daughter, spoke to the pope and asked for help reuniting her family.
Jersey Vargas had written a letter to the pope describing how she had spent her last two birthdays without her father because he was being held in a federal immigration center and facing deportation.
On Wednesday, she was part of a group of people who traveled to the Vatican, and she was able to speak with Pope Francis as he greeted visitors at St. Peter’s Basilica. Jersey handed the pope an embroidered handkerchief and told him, “My father is suffering.”
She told the pope there were many other children like her whose families were broken apart by deportation proceedings. The pope touched the girl’s face and kissed her forehead, telling her he would speak to President Barack Obama about the issue. The pope and Obama met Thursday at the Vatican, and immigration was among the topics they discussed.
While Vargas-Lopez is temporarily out of custody, his deportation case is still pending.
Bryan Cox, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Vargas-Lopez was released “on an immigration bond while he awaits the outcome of his immigration proceedings.”
An immigration judge will determine the outcome of his case,” Cox said. “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement exercises discretion on a case-by-case basis, as necessary to focus resources on our stated priorities. Under the deferred action process, and prosecutorial discretion as a whole, ICE is screening every alien we encounter, including those in custody.
“Decisions are based on the merits of each case, the factual informational provided to the agency and the totality of the circumstances,” he said.
According to Cox, Vargas-Lopez had been in federal custody since March 10, following his Sept. 27, 2013 arrest and subsequent DUI conviction in Blount County, Tenn.
The state Senate voted Friday to suspend three of its members, including Senators Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, and Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, both of whom are facing legal troubles.
Wright had previously taken an indefinite leave of absence from the Senate while he awaits sentencing on five counts of voter fraud, two counts of perjury and one count of filing a false declaration of candidacy. He faces up to eight years and four months behind bars, with sentencing set for May 16.
Prosecutors said he lied about living in Inglewood, using a property there as a prop while he actually lived in Baldwin Hills.
Calderon is facing federal charges of accepting more than $100,000 in cash bribes, as well as plane trips and dinners, in exchange for supporting legislation. Calderon is charged in a 24-count indictment with federal mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.
Calderon’s 59-year-old brother, Tom, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and seven counts of money laundering for allegedly funneling bribe money through a nonprofit group and consulting company he operates.
The Senate also voted to suspend Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who was arrested this week in connection with federal charges of corruption and conspiracy to take part in a gun-running operation.
The Senate voted 28-1 to suspend all three, who will continue to collect their salaries but will not be able to cast any votes in the Senate.