Rene Lima-Marin, 38, was born in Cuba. He was a toddler when he came to South Florida from the Communist island during the 1980 Mariel boat lift. He later moved to Denver, and he made a terrible mistake when he was a teenager that he is still paying for.
He and his friend Michael Clifton robbed two video stores at gunpoint. He was convicted of multiple robbery, kidnapping and burglary and sentenced to 98 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2008 after a clerk mistakenly recorded his sentence was to be served concurrently and not consecutively.
Lima-Marin seized the opportunity. He worked installing glass, fell in love and got married. He and Jasmine Lima-Marin had a son, Josiah "JoJo" Lima-Marin, now 7 years old. But in 2014, authorities returned the Cuban-American father to prison.
After a lengthy clemency process, Josiah and his step-brother Justus, 10, were expecting Lima-Marin's release on Wednesday when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unexpectedly got involved. Now Lima-Marin's family fears that the Cuban-American could be held indefinitely without representation, or get deported to Cuba, a country that he doesn't remember.
When Lima-Marin arrived to South Florida, the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy allowed him and other Cubans who reached U.S. land an automatic path to legal residency. But before leaving office in January, President Barack Obama announced the end of that policy.
President Donald Trump's crackdown on undocumented migrants has resulted in a surge of ICE detentions and an immigration court backlog. During Trump's first 100 days in office, the share of those arrested who had no criminal records significantly increased.
While Clifton, his co-defendant, was serving a consecutive 98-year sentence, the Colorado Legislature approved a nonbinding resolution urging Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to grant Lima-Marin clemency earlier this month.
Chief Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ordered his release from the private prison on Tuesday saying it would be "draconian" and "utterly unjust" to keep him in prison. Unfortunately for Lima-Marin and his family, the situation changed unexpectedly.
Hickenlooper said Wednesday that the Department of Corrections released Lima-Marin to immigration authorities under an ICE form referred to as a detainer. Lima-Marin was under the radar of immigration authorities, because he never applied for U.S. citizenship.