DENVER | Colorado’s governor on Friday pardoned an Aurora man and Cuban immigrant who had been mistakenly freed from prison, returned and then set free this week only to be held by immigration authorities for deportation.
Rene Lima-Marin, 38, was a toddler when he parents entered the U.S. as part of the 1980 Mariel boatlift. He was a legal resident of the United States. But that was revoked after his conviction in an armed robbery case in 2000. He and another man were convicted of robbing two video stores at gunpoint.
Lima-Marin had initially been mistakenly released from Colorado state prison on parole in 2008, married and worked regularly installing glass. The authorities sent him back to prison in 2014, and a judge ruled this week that Lima-Marin deserved to be released.
But before he could return to his family, ICE detained him, citing the deportation order from 2000. His lawyers said a pardon was his only chance to stave off deportation.
Jasmine Lima-Marin, center, stands next to supporters and her attorney, Hans Meyer, right, during a news conference on May 19, 2017, in Denver. Lima-Marin's husband, who came to the United States from Cuba as a baby during the Mariel boat lift in 1980, faces deportation. She says she's hopeful that he won't be deported but adds that she and the couple's two children would follow him there if he's deported. (AP Photo/ P. Solomon Banda)
FILE - In this May 7, 2014 file photo, Rene Lima-Marin sits for an interview with The Associated Press about the circumstances of his sentencing and incarceration, in a meeting room inside Kit Carson Correctional Center, a privately operated prison in Burlington, Colo. Lima-Marin was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early. Colorado's House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a resolution on Friday, April 21, 2017 urging the governor to grant him clemency. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
Jasmine Lima-Marin stands at a podium as she addresses the media during a news conference on Friday, May 19, 2017, in Denver. Lima-Marin's husband, who came to the United States from Cuba as a baby during the Mariel boat lift in 1980, faces deportation. She says she's hopeful that he won't be deported but adds that she and the couple's two children would follow him there if he is. (AP Photo/ P. Solomon Banda)
FILE - In this May 7, 2014, file photo, Rene Lima-Marin sits for an interview with The Associated Press about the circumstances of his sentencing and incarceration in a meeting room inside Kit Carson Correctional Center, a privately operated prison in Burlington, Colo. Lima-Marin, who was sent back to prison after being mistakenly released 90 years early, says it was cruel and unusual punishment to put him back behind bars after he reformed his life. A judge is considering on Wednesday, Dec. 21, whether to free Lima-Marin who is arguing that it would be unfair to keep him behind bars after he started a family and held a steady job after his accidental release in 2008. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)
In this undated photo provided by the the Lima-Marin Family, Rene Lima-Marin jokes around with children Justus, 7, and Josiah, 4, in Aurora, Colo. Rene Lima-Marin was sentenced in 2000 for a conviction in a robbery, kidnapping and burglary after robbing two Aurora video stores when Marin was 18. Marin was to stay in prison the rest of his life and serve 98 years. He was released after just 8 years due to a clerical error, living a crime-free life for six years before being sent back after authorities discovered their mistake. (AP Photo/Lima-Marin Family)
“This was a question of justice,” Hickenlooper told an afternoon news conference, noting that 98 of the 100 members of the state Assembly had backed a motion calling for Lima-Marin’s pardon. “This was a pretty clear example of someone who’s done all the work necessary to earn a second chance.”
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It’s unclear whether the governor’s action will be enough to stop Lima-Marin’s deportation.
“I’m not a lawyer,” Hickenlooper said when asked whether the pardon would be enough.
Hans Meyer, Rene-Marin’s lawyer, said he’d file motions to try to vacate the federal government’s deportation order. “We’re incredibly grateful to the governor for a just and fair solution,” he said.
“Rene’s immigration fight is still not over. We still have critical and immediate work to do to prevent his deportation and reunite him with his family. We hope that ICE will work with us to release Rene from custody and allow us to reopen his immigration case, restore his lawful permanent status, and reunite with his family,” Meyer said. “Thanks to this important step by the Governor, we are one step closer to reuniting Rene with his wife and children.”
Together Colorado, a nonprofit that has worked on Rene-Marin’s release, praised the efforts of state lawmakers and community groups that banded together to push for his release.
“Together Colorado would like to thank Governor Hickenlooper for his leadership in granting Rene Lima-Marin a full and unconditional pardon. This pardon will allow for Rene to have the most just process, honoring his constitutional rights, by allowing his family to fight his deportation in court to keep their family together,” Celesté Martinez, a community organizer with Together Colorado, said in a statement. “Today we have seen the a great step toward justice. Today we have seen how our power and faith as a community can keep our families together.”
Hickenlooper said Friday that Lima-Marin has become a “law abiding, productive member of this community” after his accidental release from prison. He said he agreed with a judge’s ruling this week that keeping Lima-Marin behind bars after he was released and started a family and new life would be “draconian.”
Earlier in the day, Lima-Marin’s wife, Jasmine, said she was prepared to uproot her life in the U.S. to go live with him in Cuba should he be deported.
Aurora Sentinel staff contributed to this report.