US war resister wins last-minute reprieve

With the threat of imminent deportation hanging over her, the first-ever-female Iraq war resister got a last minute reprieve to stay in Canada yesterday.

Kimberly Rivera, originally of Mesquite, Texas, broke into tears at an ’emergency community meeting’ at Toronto’s United Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St., Wednesday night.

The tears she shed were not of sorrow about her deportation back to the U.S., but of joy after having received an emergency stay order from the Federal Court of Canada earlier in the day.  The stay was granted so immigration officials could review her case.

Rivera was to be deported back to the U.S. today (March 26).

“I am very, very excited,” Rivera said.  “I don’t have to be handed over to authorities; it gives me another day to fight.”

Rivera’s fight to stay in Canada has been an uphill battle since she arrived here in February, 2007 with her family.

During a two-week leave from her tour of duty in Iraq in January 2007, where she served as a gate guard at a forward operating base, Rivera, and her husband Alberto, decided she would not return.

Packing their family and whatever else they could into their car, they drove north from Texas to upstate New York where they crossed the border on Feb. 18, 2007.

“Wow, guys,” Rivera said to the crowd of supporters gathered to hear her talk. “We have been on a journey.  I think I’ve had two ups and downs in this campaign, two almost deportations and I’m still not safe.”

The emergency stay order is only temporary and only allows Rivera to stay in Canada until her case is reviewed, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

In the crowd to support Rivera was NDP MP Olivia Chow, who threw her support behind the family. Chow said 64 per cent of Canadians support Iraq war resisters finding refuge in Canada, but the government is not listening to that voice.

“The court is doing and Parliament is also doing, but what (prime minister) Stephen Harper is not doing is obeying the will of the people,” Chow said. “This is what democracy is all about.  The people have spoken. Parliament has said that we want war resisters to stay.”

Chow was referring to a June 3, 2008 motion passed in the House of Commons to stop the deportation of war resisters.  Despite passage of the motion, immigration Minister Jason Kenney continues the deportation process.

Kenney has said war resisters are “bogus refugee claimants,” a statement since denounced by the Canadian Council of Refugees.