DENVER – A Cuban immigrant whose armed robbery conviction was vacated by Colorado's governor in an effort to stop his deportation has won a second chance to argue why he should be allowed to stay in the United States, his legal team said Tuesday.
An immigration judge in Denver overturned a deportation order for Rene Lima-Marin on July 31, and Lima-Marin will start arguing his case anew at an immigration court in suburban Aurora, said Julie Gonzales, a spokeswoman for Lima-Marin's attorneys.
Lima-Marin attracted national attention after he and an accomplice were sentenced to 98 years in prison in 2000 for robbing two video stores. Lima-Marin was mistakenly paroled from Colorado state prison in 2008, but he never reported the error to authorities. His accomplice, Michael Clifton, stayed in prison.
Lima-Marin married, had a child and got a steady job installing glass before authorities discovered the mistake in 2014 and returned him to prison. In May, a judge ordered his release, saying it was draconian to keep him behind bars. Immigration authorities detained him instead, citing a 2000 deportation order.
Days later, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, pardoned Lima-Marin in hopes of stalling his deportation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that had no effect on an immigration judge's final order of removal.
Hans Meyer, Lima-Marin's lawyer, fought the order, and his firm announced Tuesday that the order was vacated July 31 by immigration judge Melanie Corrin in Denver. Lima-Marin's case was assigned to immigration court in Aurora, Gonzales said. He has been detained at an ICE facility in Aurora since his arrest by ICE agents.
The case could easily take weeks or months, Gonzales said. "They're going to put up a fight, and we're ready for it," she said.
A message for comment from ICE wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.
Lima-Marin came to the U.S. as a toddler in the 1980 Mariel boat lift from Cuba. He had legal residency until it was revoked following his criminal conviction. Immigration authorities held him for 180 days after his 2008 parole, but Cuba at the time wasn't accepting deportees who had arrived during the Mariel boatlift.
In January, President Barack Obama ended a "wet foot-dry foot" policy that protected Cuban immigrants who arrived on U.S. soil, opening a possible door for additional Cubans from the Mariel boat lift to be deported.