Governor Andrew Cuomo pardoned Baba Sillah, who had been working and paying taxes for 17 years, until he was suddenly arrested.
Sillah is now home in the Bronx with his five children - and his wife, a U.S. citizen.
"I was thinking about it like...I don't know how to say it, but it was rough," Sillah said.
"Right now I cannot talk. I cannot say nothing. Only thanks everybody," added Sillah's wife, Mamou Drame.
Sillah was detained by ICE in January after he appeared for a routine immigration appointment, just as he had been doing for 17 years. His lawyers say at one point he was on a plane, moments from being deported to his native Gambia.
This is why New York is home for Baba Sillah. 1st time since January the Bronx resident held his 5 kids & wife. Detained by #ICE after he appeared for routine immigration appointment, set to be deported to Gambia. His wife is a US citizen. He’s paid his taxes for 15 years... 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Zbwa8cKLFm— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) March 16, 2019
"He was minutes away. It was minutes. The judge's order came in. I think at some time around 7:57, and when does the gate close before the flight takes off? Not long after that," said Attorney Gregory Copeland.
"Most people have never given up, but we have fought for many, many of our members. Our non-citizen members, and we have become very adept," said Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Coalition.
On Friday Governor Cuomo pardoned Sillah for convictions dating back more than a decade - low-level misdemeanors and violations from when he worked as an unlicensed clothing vendor.
Sillah's wife is a U.S. citizen, and he has paid taxes for 15 years.
Governor Cuomo said in a statement,
"While President Trump tries to build his wall and tear communities apart, we will always strive to uphold the values embodied by the Lady in our Harbor."
Sillah's wife says she never lost hope.
"I always told them he will be back. Please. 'Daddy will come back.' I always told them that," Drame said.
Sillah works as a porter. He says he will take the weekend off, then head back to work on Monday.
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