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Gov. Hickenlooper pardons Rene Lima-Marin to fend 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)

Colorado

Gov. Hickenlooper pardons Rene Lima-Marin to fend off deportation

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s governor on Friday pardoned a Cuban immigrant for an armed robbery he committed 19 years ago in an effort stave off the man’s deportation after immigration authorities detained him following a judge’s ruling that he should no longer be imprisoned.

The pardon from Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was the latest twist in the saga of Rene Lima-Marin, 38. He came to the U.S. as a toddler as part of the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba and had legal residency until it was revoked following his 2000 criminal conviction. Lima-Marin was sentenced to 98 years in prison for the robbery. But he was mistakenly paroled from Colorado state prison in 2008.

Lima-Marin married, had a child and got a steady job installing glass before state authorities realized their mistake in 2014 and sent him back for the remainder of his 98-year prison sentence.

A Colorado judge earlier this week ordered Lima-Marin released from state prison, saying it’d be “draconian” to keep him incarcerated. But before he could return to his family, immigration authorities picked him up, citing a still-active deportation order from 2000. His lawyers said a pardon was his only chance to stave off deportation.

Lima-Marin’s case became a bipartisan cause celebre this week in Colorado, as 98 members of the state Assembly, Democrats and Republicans, called on Hickenlooper to pardon him. Though the legal roots of Lima-Marin’s deportation order stretch back to actions of the Obama administrations, his detention comes as the Trump administration has moved aggressively to speed up deportations, sometimes sparking clashes with local officials.

“This was a question of justice,” Hickenlooper told an afternoon news conference. “This was a pretty clear example of someone who’s done all the work necessary to earn a second chance.”

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.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for ICE, indicated it would not be enough. “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’d file motions to vacate that order.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the governor for a just and fair solution,” he said. “This is a tremendous first step.”

But Jason Kasperek, the assistant manager at a video store that Lima-Marin and an accomplice robbed in 1998, said Lima-Marin should be back in prison.

“I just think that it’s scandalous how he used the system,” Kasperek said of Lima-Marin, recalling how the robbers held a rifle to his head as they forced him to open the store safe. “I think it’s completely ridiculous. It’s unjust for all victims who have been involved in it.”

The Blockbuster was one of 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, serving his 98-year sentence.

This is not Lima-Marin’s first time in immigration detention. Though Trump has ordered immigration authorities to step up their enforcement of deportation orders, Lima-Marin’s legal jeopardy actually stems from changes made by Obama.

After his 2008 parole, immigration authorities held Lima-Marin for 180 days. But at the time, Cuba would not accept any additional people who had arrived on the Mariel boat lift as deportees. As a result, Lima-Marin was released. He continued to check in with 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 arrived from the island, it opened the door to additional Cubans from the Mariel boat lift to be deported.

1 Comment
  • Nathan

    Why is Rene’s co-defendant Michael Clifton (an American citizen for the record) still sitting in prison? Is his social currency not valuable enough to you for a pardon Mr. Governor?

    Rene was sentenced to 98 years, but knew his paperwork was done incorrectly and that he would only serve 16 (parole in 8). Michael was sentenced to 98 years, and his paperwork was A-OK. Rene had hope of getting out and having a shot at life as a free man. Mr. Clifton was NEVER afforded this chance. Rene immediately withdrew his appeal and found god.

    Rene, as you undoubtedly know, is a reformed man by all accounts today. A model example, I’m sure, of how the corrections program can truly rehabilitate a man. I have nothing but respect for the new direction he’s moved his life, cheers to him. This has nothing to do with Rene anymore, justice is served.

    My question to you Mr. Governor, Why does Michael Clifton, an American citizen, still sit in jail from the EXACT SAME CRIME AND SENTENCE that a Cuban citizen has now been released twice for? When is an American citizen, whose unquestionably been treated less fair than his Cuban co-defendant going to finally be given the hope that he too one day can be a free productive man in our society?

    Michael Clifton never got the favor of hope that his best friend Rene Lima-Marin did…here’s me hoping, on his behalf, that you’re actually interested in justice and equality for all (certainly Coloradoan born Americans) and not just chasing a headline to oppose our current President.

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