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Prisoner Freed (Twice) After Legal Battle, Then Detained by ICE

Mr. Lima-Marin was out of prison for about six years, during which time many accounts showed him to be a model citizen. But Colorado prosecutors realized their mistake in 2014, and he was arrested again.

His family fought to secure his release, and this week, they won the battle but not the war.

On Wednesday, when Mr. Lima-Marin left the custody of the state’s corrections department, he was turned over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

He remains in ICE custody “pending his removal to Cuba,” according to a statement from the agency.

District Judge Carlos Armando Samour Jr. wrote on Tuesday, in an order that called for Mr. Lima-Marin’s release from state prison, that his rearrest in 2014 had been “shocking to the contemporary conscience or the universal sense of justice.”

According to an account included in Judge Samour’s order, when Mr. Lima-Marin was 20, he and a friend, Michael Clifton, robbed two video rental stores, armed with a single rifle. They collected thousands of dollars from safes, but no injuries were reported. Officers investigating the crime later seized three stolen rifles in the men’s shared home.

Mr. Lima-Marin was found guilty on felony charges including first-degree burglary and aggravated robbery in 2000. He received multiple consecutive sentences that added up to 98 years in prison. But on one key piece of paperwork, the sentence was somehow recorded as concurrent — rather than consecutive — for a total imprisonment of just 16 years.

He was released on parole in 2008. (Mr. Clifton is still serving his sentence.)

After he left prison, Mr. Lima-Marin reunited with and eventually married his girlfriend. Together, the couple bought a home in Aurora, Colo., and raised two boys. He found work, first selling coupon books and then telephones, before he took up an apprenticeship to learn window cutting and installing.

“He worked with many young people, encouraging them to make good choices in life” following his 2008 release, and was well-liked by his neighbors and employers, the judge’s order said.

Photo

Jasmine Lima-Marin at her home in Aurora, Colo., on Thursday.

Credit
Peter Banda/Associated Press.

After he was arrested again in 2014, his wife, Jasmine Lima-Marin, teamed up with lawyers — Ms. Diego, of Colorado, and Jaime Halscott and Patrick Megaro, of Florida — to get him out, arguing that he had already been fully rehabilitated.

A court hearing in December led to Judge Samour’s decision this week. Mr. Lima-Marin was moved to a transfer facility in Denver in what appeared to be the last stop before a final release, and Ms. Diego was optimistic on Wednesday morning.

“We’ve been working on this since 2015 — it seems like forever!” she said in a phone interview at the time, adding that Ms. Lima-Marin, who could not be reached for comment, was feeling happy and overwhelmed. “I broke the news to her as soon as I got the court’s order. Talking to her was the first thing I wanted to do.”

Mr. Lima-Marin was indeed released from the custody of the state’s department of corrections later that day. Then ICE took over.

Recent geopolitical changes are weighing on the outcome of the case. Mr. Lima-Marin, who immigrated to the United States as a toddler, became a legal resident under laws that essentially allowed many Cuban migrants to be treated as refugees.

But during his last few days in office, as part of efforts to reset relations with Cuba, President Obama revised laws that had allowed many Cuban migrants, even those with deportation orders, to remain on American soil.

Mr. Obama and President Trump have both prioritized the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes. Under Mr. Trump, immigration arrests have risen significantly compared to last year, though a similar increase occurred during the early years of the Obama administration.

Now, Cuban officials may decide to take Mr. Lima-Marin back. If they do, he could be forced to leave the United States in a matter of days. If they do not, he could remain in the United States under ICE supervision and subject to check-ins — just as he was during his six years out of prison.

Ms. Diego said she is optimistic that Mr. Lima-Marin could be allowed to stay in the United States. One way that could happen is for Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant clemency to Mr. Lima-Marin, something the state legislature has already requested in a bipartisan resolution passed this month. (A spokeswoman from the governor’s office said the clemency application was under review as of Friday morning.)

That could remove the legal basis for his deportation orders, Ms. Diego said. But she added that it’s a race against time as Cuba weighs its own decision.

“There is definitely urgency in what we’re doing now,” she said.

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