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 But that was revoked after his conviction in an armed robbery case in 2000.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.
“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.