Mexican immigrant Luis Zarco had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, saved as he was from deportation and able to keep his family united in "the best country in the world."
"I thank God every day for the family I have, but especially today, now that I have my permanent residency and can stay here legally - though our happiness is not yet complete because we still need immigration reform," he told Efe.
The North Carolina resident was able to enjoy his first Thanksgiving dinner as a permanent U.S. resident after a ruling in September that saved him from deportation and regularized his immigration status.
Zarco spent the day relaxing with wife Maricela Prieto-Ramon and playing with his kids - Jhorgelly, 9, Kimberly, 4, and Angel, 18 months.
Zarco's happiness was hard to come by. He arrived in the country in 1998, settling first in Arizona but moving a year later to Charlotte on the advice of friends who told him that job opportunities were better there.
He got a driver's license, wed Maricela in 2002, worked in construction and started a family.
But his life changed on July 7, 2011, when he was stopped by a Mecklenburg County sheriff's deputy for going through a red light.
Though his elder daughter pleaded with the officer not to take her dad to jail, he was finally tried and sentenced to deportation because of his undocumented status.
In 2012 the Mexican joined American Families United, a Hispanic group whose members fight against the deportation of members of the community with the aid of other organizations like Action NC, the Latin American Coaltion and the NC DREAM Team.
Zarco's case won the attention of local media, and campaigns were mounted during the year that included telephone calls, letters, vigils and petitions to stop his deportation, all of which paid off in the Sept. 18 immigration court ruling. EFE