Rene Lima-Marin, 38, was finally expecting to be released from prison on Wednesday after serving 12 years of a 98-year sentence for armed robbery.
It would technically be his second release from incarceration. In 2008, he was incorrectly let out of prison due to a paperwork error, and re-arrested in 2014 after a prosecutor noticed the mistake, according to CNN. In the intervening years he found a job, got married, had children, and bought a home—all before being re-imprisoned.
Wednesday’s release, then, seemed to promise some finality and a chance to actually start over for Lima-Marin. But that promise was short-lived. Instead of being reunited with his wife and two children, Lima-Marin was immediately taken into custody by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents who transferred him from the Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City, CO, to an ICE detention center in Denver, according to the Denver Post.
His detention stems from a 2000 order by an immigration judge to deport him. Lima-Marin moved to the U.S. from Cuba with his family when he was a baby. Both of Lima-Marin’s parents are American citizens, they told the Post. Lima-Marin, though, is a legal resident, not a full citizen. After he was imprisoned on felony charges in 2000, the immigration judge ruled that he should be deported upon his release.
Just before he left office, President Obama dropped a rule that had, for decades, meant that Cuban immigrants like Lima-Marin had a relatively straightforward path to be granted residency and eventual citizenship in the U.S. That has resulted in the deportation of more than 100 Cuban-Americans, and it’s unclear whether Cuba will accept them back. In some cases, people may be placed on an “order of supervision” instead of being sent to Cuba, meaning they would be released but required to regularly check in with ICE.
Chief Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr., who released Lima-Marin from prison this week, said that, given the system’s treatment of him so far and his exemplary conduct in prison and in the outside world over the past 10 years, it would be “draconian” not to release him. He wrote in his decision:
After its utter lack of care led to Lima-Marin’s premature release and prolonged erroneous liberty, in January 2014, the government decided to compensate for its transgressions by swiftly turning back the clock and returning Lima-Marin to prison ... disregarding everything that had transpired between April 2008 and January 2014.
Requiring Lima-Marin to serve the rest of his prison sentence all these years later would be draconian, would deprive him of substantive due process, and would perpetrate a manifest injustice. Because the Court finds that Lima-Marin is being unlawfully detained, he is ordered released. No other remedy will result in justice in this case.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is also considering a request for clemency for Lima-Marin, which has the support of both houses of the state legislature. That may not be enough to prevent his deportation, but it could be a step in the right direction.
“They want to send him to a place he’s never known,” Jasmine Lima-Marin, Rene’s wife, told Fox 31 Denver. “My biggest fear, to be completely honest, is if this doesn’t work and he does have to go, how hard it would be to go with him,” Jasmine Lima-Marin said. “That’s my biggest fear, because if he goes, I’ll go with him.”
“[Lima-Marin] remains in ICE custody pending his removal to Cuba,” an ICE spokesperson told Fusion in a statement.