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Colo. man to be freed early now in immigration custody

Denver — A Colorado man whose 98-year prison term was cut short by a judge has been detained by immigration officials just as he was set to be released.

Rene Lima-Marin was released to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Denver on Wednesday, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.

Lima-Marin, who came to the U.S. from Cuba with his parents when he was a toddler during the 1980 Mariel boat lift, was convicted in 2000 of multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary counts after he and another man robbed two video stores at gunpoint. He was mistakenly released on parole in 2008. He then held a steady job installing glass, got married and has a stepson, Justus, 10, and son JoJo, 7, who was born while he was out of prison.

Authorities realized the mistake in 2014 and returned him to prison.

A judge on Tuesday ordered Lima-Marin’s release, saying it would be “draconian” to keep him in prison and that he had paid his debt to society. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement can request that an inmate suspected of an immigration violation be held after their release from jail or prison under a form referred to as a hold or a detainer.

Jasmine Lima-Marin had decorated her home with balloons and said she was on standby to drive to the prison where he was incarcerated to pick him up.

“Everyone is completely devastated,” his Denver-based attorney, Kimberly Diego, said. “Everything has been turned on its head.”

Diego added that she was scrambling to find him an immigration attorney.

Lima-Marin never applied for citizenship, his father, Eli Borges, told The Denver Post.

The so-called “wet foot, dry foot” policy sent back Cubans intercepted at sea but gave those who reached land an automatic path to legal residency. Before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama announced the end of that policy as part of normalizing ties between Cuba and the U.S.

President Donald Trump has been critical of his predecessor’s moves to improve relations with the Castro government and promised to re-evaluate the agreements with Cuba. He has not yet said publicly whether he intended to reverse specific policies.

The Colorado Legislature approved a nonbinding resolution earlier this month urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant Lima-Marin clemency. Hickenlooper said Wednesday that the Department of Corrections was required by law to release Lima-Marin to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

“We can’t imagine the emotional roller coast this family has endured. … The family has shown amazing strength and we hope this is a temporary stop on his way to being reunited with his family,” he said.

Lima-Marin’s co-defendant, Michael Clifton, is serving a 98-year sentence.