CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte man was in the country undocumented and facing deportation to his native Mexico, but now the father of three will be staying in Charlotte. This comes after years of community rallies and support and a surprise decision by the government.
Hugs, tears of joy and thumbs up as Luis Zarco walked out of immigration court with his family and with new legal status.
"I give to God all the glory," said Zarco.
For two years, Zarco has feared being deported to Mexico. In June 2011 he was arrested for running a red light with an expired license, since undocumented immigrants can no longer renew their licenses. Deportation would have meant having to leave his wife and three U.S citizen children, ages 16 months to nine years old.
"He's like everything -- my soul, my life, my heart, everything," said Georgina, Zarco’s 9-year-old daughter.
NBC Charlotte’s been following Zarco's case since his hearing last October when the judge delayed a decision. In May, Zarco Spokane in his home about his life in the U.S, including volunteering every Saturday at Habitat for Humanity. The non-profit showed its appreciation and support outside court.
"He works a construction job all week, and then chooses to volunteer and help those who can't afford housing otherwise in Charlotte," said Frank Spencer, President of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte.
Zarco's attorney says he believes the community support swayed ICE's decision.
"First time I've seen something like this where the judge was prepared to deny and they overrode that decision," said Zarco’s attorney, Christopher Greene.
"It's like if you take off a big rock from your back, because now, since today, it's going to be different – everything," said Zarco.
Zarco will now be able to apply for US citizenship in five years, and he will have a Green Card to be here legally.