Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a full pardon Friday afternoon for Rene Lima-Marin in the hopes of avoiding the man’s deportation to Cuba.
The governor, a Democrat, also suggested that additional pardons are coming in separate cases, though he did not share those details on Friday, only adding that he has been working for many months on a list.
Lima-Marin is the Cuban-born, U.S.-raised man who was convicted in 2000 of multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary counts. He and another man had robbed two video stores at gunpoint.
Lima-Marin was sentenced to 98 years in prison. But he was mistakenly released on parole in 2008, then held a steady job and got married. Authorities realized the mistake in 2014, and police returned him to prison.
Just earlier this week, Lima-Marin was granted freedom again, this time by a judge who said keeping him in prison any longer would be unjust. Hickenlooper and the judge cited Alexander Hamilton, that the first duty of society is justice.
A twist came Wednesday when U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement put a hold on him, despite the court-ordered release from prison.
Hickenlooper’s order, announced at a news conference, is intended to prevent Lima-Marin from being deported to his native Cuba, though the governor is unsure whether his pardon will actually prevent deportation.
“This is an extraordinary case not to be taken lightly,” Hickenlooper said. “There were a number of factors surrounding the decision.
“Obviously in terms of rehabilitation he demonstrated an ability to contribute to the fabric of his community in Colorado. He’s rebuilt his life. He has become a law-abiding productive member of his community.”
An attorney for Lima-Marin, Hans Meyer, said shortly after the governor’s announcement that he spoke with Lima-Marin, who reacted “stunned.”
“Rene’s immigration fight is still not over,” Meyer said. “We still have critical and immediate work to do to prevent his deportation and reunite him with his family.
“We hope that ICE will work with us to release Rene from custody and allow us to reopen his immigration case, restore his lawful permanent status, and reunite with his family. Thanks to this important step by the governor, we are one step closer to reuniting Rene with his wife and children.”
Lima-Marin’s wife, Jasmine, who had decorated their Aurora house in anticipation of a homecoming, according to reports, said in a statement, “I am so excited to hear this news in support of Rene! Our family is so grateful for the actions taken by our governor today.”
Hickenlooper also spoke with Lima-Marin’s wife, who described her response as “ecstatic.”
The governor highlighted that the legislature overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution earlier this month urging him to grant Lima-Marin clemency.
Reps. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, and Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, sent a letter to Hickenlooper earlier this week urging a pardon given news of the ICE hold.
“I’m grateful to Governor Hickenlooper for his incredible act of mercy and humanitarian relief to Rene and his family,” Williams said in a statement. “This was never a partisan issue … All three branches of our Colorado government came together to reunite Rene with his family, and at the end of the day that is what matters most.”
Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who co-sponsored the resolution in the legislature asking for clemency, added, “When government gets in the way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it’s our job as elected representatives of the people to preserve those rights. We’re grateful to Governor Hickenlooper for joining with the legislature in helping to resolve this problem.”
More pardons are likely coming
Hickenlooper also signaled on Friday that additional pardons are coming, though he did not draw a connection to immigration issues in those cases.
“We’ve been working on this for so many months and we have a list of pardons that are people who are already free that are not in danger of being re-arrested or deported,” Hickenlooper said.
The governor said the purpose of the pardons would be to ensure that rehabilitated individuals are able to move on with their lives by securing jobs.
“Hopefully in the next couple of weeks there will be other news for people who requested pardons,” Hickenlooper said.
“These are people who have done the same kind of work, they’ve rehabilitated their lives … Colorado should be the worst place to commit a violent crime and the best place to get a second chance.”