Rene Lima-Marin was set to leave a private immigration jail in Aurora on Monday afternoon, potentially ending a long and bizarre legal saga.
“As of about 1 o’clock, he’d been pulled from the general population and was being processed for release,” said Leah Rosenberg, an attorney for Lima-Marin with Elinoff Legal, speaking via cell phone as she waited on a bench at the detention facility.
(Update: He was released shortly afterward.)
“God has a plan. He has a purpose, so everything was meant to be, you know what I mean? And it’s brought me to this point,” Lima-Marin told 9News upon his release. “I’m just, I’m grateful … You wait for this, you expect it, but you don’t know how to express it.”
Lima-Marin was mistakenly released from prison in 2008, only eight years into his 98-year sentence for an armed robbery case. A clerk had mistakenly set his sentences in the case to run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
He started a family, held a job and stayed out of trouble for years after his release. In 2014, he was forced to return to prison after authorities discovered the mistake. He was freed again in 2017 by a judge, but he was almost immediately picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as he tried to return to his wife and two children.
Lima-Marin was brought to the United States from Cuba as a young child. He is a legal permanent resident, but not a citizen — which meant that the felony conviction made him eligible for deportation.
His case became a statewide cause, and Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2017 pardoned Lima-Marin of his crimes. By removing the felony from his record, that gave him a chance to beat the deportation case.
“We had to make some legal arguments that essentially they could not use that conviction in order to pursue immigration proceedings,” Rosenberg said.
It worked. An immigration judge ordered Lima-Marin’s release in October — but the Department of Homeland Security appealed the decision and “went out of their way,” to ensure he stayed in jail while the appeal was pending, according to Rosenberg.
Today, Lima-Marin learned that he had won again. “We’ve just won the appeal essentially clearing the path for his release,” Rosenberg said.
Still, she added: “There’s a lot of cautious optimism. We’ve been here before several times over the last year. And obviously his family’s been through this multiple, multiple times.”
The legal challenges might not be over, she said. “We do anticipate, based on the current political climate, that the department is likely to appeal to the Tenth Circuit,” Rosenberg said, referring to the federal appeals court. But Lima-Marin would not be detained during such an appeal, she said.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said the government might let it go.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is disappointed that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has dismissed our appeal of an immigration judge’s decision to terminate the removal proceedings of Rene Lima Marin, from Cuba,” the statement read.
“However, ICE will abide by the BIA’s decision; Lima Marin has already been released from ICE custody. ICE currently plans no further action against Lima Marin unless other future criminal convictions render him removable.”
Aaron Elinoff was the lead attorney on the immigration case. Lima-Marin is married and a father to a stepson and a son. His co-defendant, Michael Clifton, is still in prison.