DENVER – Colorado governor on Friday, picked up a Cuban immigrant for an armed robbery he committed 19 years ago in an effort to stave off the man’s deportation after the immigration authorities detained him after a court ruling, that he should no longer be locked.
The pardon from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was the latest twist in the story of Rene Lima-Marin, 38. He came to the US. as a toddler, as part of the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba and had lawful residence, until it is withdrawn after his 2000 criminal conviction. Lima-Marin was sentenced to 98 years in prison for the robbery. But he was mistakenly paroled from the Colorado state prison in 2008.
Lima-Marin married, had a child and got a hard job to install glass for the government realized their mistake in 2014 and sent him back for the rest of his 98-year prison sentence.
A Colorado judge earlier this week ordered Lima-Marin released from the state prison, saying that it would be “draconian” to keep him in prison. But before he could return to his family, immigration authorities picked him up, citing a still-active deportation order from 2000. His lawyer said a pardon was his only chance to stave off deportation.
Lima-Marin’s case has become a bipartisan cause celebre in Colorado, 98 members of the state Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, called on Hickenlooper to grant him grace. Although the legal roots of the Lima-Marin deportation order bit back to the actions of the Obama administrations, his detention comes as the Trump administration moved aggressively to the speed of the deportation, sometimes provoking conflicts with local officials.
“This was a question of justice,” Hickenlooper told an afternoon press conference. “This was a pretty clear example of someone who is all of the work necessary to earn a second chance.”
It is unclear whether the governor’s action enough to stop Lima-Marin deportation.
“I’m not a lawyer,” Hickenlooper said when asked whether the pardon would be enough.
Prosecutor George Brauchler, whose office prosecuted Lima-Marin, said Hickenlooper not to give prosecutors time to the pardon application, as required by the laws of the state.
“The hasty decision to ignore the law of the state was seemingly on the skirt of the federal law, and that is not the correct use of the governor of the pardon power,” said Brauchler, who is running for governor.
Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the ICE cream, it will be indicated that Hickenlooper is forgiven would not be enough to stop the deportation.
“Rene Michael Lima-Marin currently has final orders of removal from a federal immigration judge,” he said in a statement.
Hans Meyer, Lima-Marin’s lawyer said he would file motions to vacate.
“We are incredibly grateful to the governor for a just and equitable solution,” he said. “This is a great first step.”
But Jason Kasperek, assistant manager at a Blockbuster video store that Lima-Marin and an accomplice robbed in 1998, said Lima-Marin should be back in the prison.
“I think it’s outrageous how he used the system,” Kasperek said Lima-Marin, recalling how the robbers held a gun to his head as they forced him to open the store safe. “I think it’s totally ridiculous. It is unjust for all the victims that have been involved.”
The Blockbuster was one of the two video stores that Lima-Marin and his accomplice Michael Clifton robbed. They were convicted on multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary counts. Clifton is still in prison, where his 98 years in prison.
This is not Lima-Marin is the first time in immigration detention. Although Trump has ordered immigration authorities to their enforcement of the deportation orders, Lima-Marin legal risk is actually arising from the changes of Obama.
After his 2008 parole, immigration authorities held in Lima-Marin for 180 days. But at the time, Cuba would not accept any additional people who arrived on the Mariel boat lift deportees. As a result, Lima-Marin was released. He continued to check in with the immigration authorities regularly, said his wife, Jasmine.
But when Obama in January ended the “wet foot-dry foot” policy that had protected Cuban immigrants who came from the island, it opened the door for additional Cubans of the Mariel boat lift to be deported.