Just After Winning His Freedom In Uplifting Case, Inmate Taken By ICE

Laurel Dammann
Expecting to be reunited with his family after a long, hard fight for freedom, reformed felon Rene Lima-Marin is now facing immigration authorities.

Flickr: Global Panorama

Rene Lima-Marin was serving out a 98-year prison sentence in Colorado for robbing two video stores in 1998 when he was mistakenly released early in 2008.

Taking this lucky second chance to heart, Lima-Marin found employment, started a family, purchased a home, and became an upstanding member of his community, working with young people to help them make good choices for their futures.

However, in 2014, authorities realized their mistake, and Lima-Marin was re-arrested and once again imprisoned. 

Judge Carlos Samour Jr. of Arapahoe County District Court did not see the justice in this though and ruled on Tuesday to release Lima-Marin back to his family and life. 

"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,” Samour wrote in his decision. “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.”

However, just when everyone thought this would be an inspiring story of redemption and justice, things have once again taken a cruel turn. On the same day Lima-Marin was to be released back to his family, authorities with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) halted the long-awaited reunion.

Lima-Marin's parents came to America from Cuba in 1980 when he was about 2 years old in the historic Mariel Boatlift. According to Lima-Marin's father, his son became a legal resident when they reached American shores, but he never applied for U.S. citizenship. Since ICE's involvement, the family has been working quickly to find an immigration attorney to resolve his citizenship status.

When Lima-Marin was released in 2008 he completed five years of parole with a spotless record and managed to rise above low-paying jobs often left to felons into a union position as a glazier. He married his high school sweetheart, Jasmine, became a father to two boys, and purchased a home in Aurora, Colorado. The judge called Lima-Marin an "asset to society," an "outstanding citizen," and recognized the source of good the man had become in his community.

"His case was unique in that sense," Lima-Marin's attorney Kimberly Diego said. "Not all people who are rehabilitated behave that way."

Lima-Marin had been released 90 years early due to a paperwork error. A clerk wrote that his sentences be served concurrently, instead of consecutively.
On Jan. 7, 2014, his former prosecutor had decided to check on his whereabouts and, finding he was no longer in the prison system, discovered the error leading to his mistaken release. That same day, he was taken from his family and imprisoned to serve the remainder of his sentence.
“I’ve been taken away from my children and my wife. I don’t even know how to explain that that’s the thing that’s consistently on my mind every single day,” Lima-Marin said in a 2016 hearing. “I’m supposed to be the head of my household, I’m the person…I’m the person that’s supposed to guide and lead them of everything that’s of God, and I’ve been taken away from them.”
Samour took his time going over the case, making sure that nothing remained unexamined. Diego described his work as "thorough" and that she "could tell he wanted to make sure this was perfect." The result was a ruling strongly on the side of justice.
"In effect, 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," said Samour. "Not through the use of a magic wand or the invention of a time machine built out of a DeLorean, which might have transported him back to his life in April 2008, but through the simple issuance of an arrest warrant, which merely put him back in prison, disregarding everything that had transpired between April 2008 and January 2014."
May this ruling strongly guide Lima-Marin's case with the immigration authorities moving forward. He's worked hard to turn his story into a positive one, and he deserves a happy ending.