9NEWS’ Kyle Clark reports on a fascinating development in a story that attracted much attention at the close of this year’s legislative session in Colorado–a prison inmate named Rene Lima-Marin who was mistakenly released early and then re-incarcerated, prompting a bipartisan push from legislators to win his freedom.
Apparently, no one expected what came next:
Rene Lima-Marin is now in the custody of Immigrations and Customs Agents who – years ago – had flagged him for deportation. Lima-Marin’s immigration status and possible deportation were not known to the judge who freed him, the state legislators who rallied to his cause, or the public which was implored to support his release.
Lima Marin’s advocates say he was brought to the US as a child fleeing Cuba. Cubans special status in the U.S. meant he wasn’t at risk for deportation, until he became a convicted felon in 2000. ICE flagged him for possible deportation at that time.
The ruling this week by Judge Carlos Samour did not mention Lima-Marin’s immigration status. A court spokesman confirms the Judge didn’t know he was freeing a man into the hands of ICE agents. He found out on Wednesday.
Fascinatingly, none of the politicians in either party who championed Lima-Marin’s release from prison were aware that, as a Cuban immigrant, he could be deported for his crime despite having been granted permission to remain in the country upon entry as a Cuban immigrant.
A bill in support of Lima Marin had broad bi-partisan support at the state legislature. We talked to two Democratic sponsors – Rep. Joe Salazar and Sen. Dominick Moreno – who said they did not know Lima Marin was flagged for deportation – but that wouldn’t have changed their stance. We haven’t heard back from Republican sponsors – Rep. Dave Williams and Sen. Owen Hill.
Late last night, GOP Rep. Dave Williams, who gained nationwide notoriety for his controversial failed legislation to punish so-called “sanctuary cities” this year, did respond to the news:
I’m committed to ensuring that Rene is not sent back to a communist country that is ruled by a cruel and repressive regime. I will still do everything I can to help reunite Rene with his family while respecting the rule of law.
To which we can only say, thank goodness the guy’s from Cuba! Because otherwise he’d just be a noncitizen who committed a felony–exactly the kind of person President Donald Trump wants to deport. We’ll be very interested in seeing other Republicans who championed Lima-Marin’s freedom speak out–not least since their greater pull with the Republican administration in Washington could prove much more influential on this man’s behalf than Rep. Joe Salazar and a bunch of state house Democrats.
Whatever local Republicans do next, it’s a very straightforward question now whether they would have voted overwhelmingly to support Rene Lima-Marin’s release if they had known ICE would be waiting to pick him up. Freshman Rep. Williams may be willing to quietly munch on his crow, but we have trouble believing that will be a unanimous response from the GOP caucus.
Not to mention the soul searching. There really ought to be some soul searching.