AURORA – A Cuban immigrant who was pardoned by Colorado’s governor after he was ordered released from prison only to be arrested by immigration authorities is free again.
A smiling Rene Lima-Marin walked out of an immigration detention center in suburban Denver on Monday after winning his deportation case. His lawyer, wife, father and a niece and nephew were there to greet him.
A judge ordered in October that deportation proceedings against Lima-Marin end and that he be released but U.S. Department of Homeland Security appealed that decision.
A lawyer at the firm representing him, Leah Rosenberg, said it was notified Monday that the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals had denied the appeal. She said the government could still appeal to U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals but he would remain free in the meantime.
Lima-Marin was convicted of armed robbery in 2000 and sentenced to 98 years in prison but mistakenly paroled in 2008 in prison. After his release, Lima-Marin married, started a family and a got a job but was returned to prison after authorities discovered their mistake six years later. In May 2017, a judge ordered he be released from prison, saying it was draconian to keep him behind bars. Immigration authorities detained him instead, citing a deportation order tied to his conviction.
Days later, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pardoned Lima-Marin in hopes of stalling his deportation. An immigration judge in Denver overturned the deportation order in July but he remained in immigration detention while lawyers argued over his case.
Jason Kasperek, an assistant manager at a video store who Lima-Marin and accomplice Michael Clifton held up 1998, opposed the pardon, saying Lima-Marin had used the system in a “scandalous” way.
Clifton remains in prison. He told The Denver Post last year that he wishes Lima-Marin well but hopes his childhood friend’s case would lead officials to address his long sentence too.
Lima-Marin came to the U.S. as a child in the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba. He had legal residency until it was revoked following his criminal conviction. Immigration authorities held him for 180 days after his 2008 parole, but Cuba at the time wasn’t accepting deportees who had arrived during the Mariel boatlift.
In January, then-President Barack Obama ended a “wet foot-dry foot” policy that protected Cuban immigrants who arrived on U.S. soil, opening a possible door for additional Cubans from the Mariel boat lift to be deported.