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Pope moved by little girl’s defense of immigrants ahead of Obama visit
A little Mexican girl sends out an appeal to the Pope ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with US President Barack Obama: Meeting Francis “was a blessing for immigrants. It is something we consider very important to our cause”
ANDRÉS BELTRAMO ÁLVAREZ
VATICAN CITY- Jersey Vargas is just 10 years old but already sounds like a young politician. She was born in the United States to a Mexican family and today, completely by chance, turned into a spokesman for millions of illegal Hispanic immigrants. The little girl hopped over one of the crowd barriers in St. Peter’s square and ran up to the Pope to ask him to speak out against the deportation of illegal immigrants at his meeting with Barack Obama tomorrow. The Pope was visibly moved by the girl’s gesture.
The little one had come to the Vatican to attend Pope Francis’ General Audience, along with with a delegation of Hispanic rights activists. At the end of the Audience, filled with excitement, the girl hopped over one of the barriers and rushed to the front row, where she handed the Pope a handkerchief, a little memento of huge sentimental value.
At first she didn’t get a chance to tell the Pope about the situation her parents were facing as immigrants but shortly afterwards when she returned to greet the Pope, she explained that her father was about to be deported. “Where from” the Pope asked. “The United States,” she replied.
“I went back to ask him to help us because it’s unfair that many children like me are faced with this situation, separated from our families. He blessed me, gave me a kiss and confirmed to me he would be seeing President Obama. I felt better after this because I felt I made a difference to the world, he gave me his word and I’m happy,” the little girl told Vatican Insider.
For some reason, the group of 16 activists representing different organisations of immigrants in Los Angeles weren’t given a spot from where they could greet the Pope directly. They began the paperwork to travel to Rome last January, along with Archbishop José Gómez (of Mexican origin).
They came to the square thinking that they would be taking part in the customary “baciamani” (hand-kissing) phase, when Francis greets thousands of people. But the unfavourable spot where they were standing in meant they had to rely on a 10-year-old girl to get their message across to the Pope.
Jersey is the third of Mario and Dolores Vargas’ five children. She and two of her siblings are US citizens, the rest only have temporary permits. Her parents have been living in the country for 14 years. The father has been held in a prison in the state of Indiana for over a year now and is due to be deported. The mother looks after the family which lives in Panorama City and earns a living selling tamales.
“I am very happy and excited because this is the first time I met someone very important. I asked Pope Francis to help us. People with no papers have not committed any crime, they just wanted to help their families, they just wanted a better life,” she explained.
“I cried because this is the first time I’ve met such an important person; he is the one who is closest to God and it was a huge honour for me. When I saw him he looked like an angel, a saint. I would like to urge children to carry on fighting so that one day their parents can return and never be separated from them again.”
Perhaps Vatican protocol thought it best not to give centre stage to immigrants the day before the Pope’s first private audience with US president Barack Obama, which is scheduled to take place this Thursday morning in the Apostolic Palace.
But Francisco Moreno, President of Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamérica (COFEM), was not disheartened. He said many of the illegal immigrants in the US are Catholics and see in the Pope a sign of hope.
He recalled that more than a thousand people are deported daily from the United States, that means more than two million separated families. The children have US citizenship, while the parents are deported.
“[Meeting Francis] was a blessing for immigrants. It is something we consider very important to our cause, for the people that have been working on this project for years. We once thought it would have been impossible to come to travel to the Vatican,” he said.