War Resister Arrested at Border

It is absolutely true that no one forced Kimberly Rivera to join the U.S. army. No one can deny that making such a choice during a time of war (which seems like forever now) means that you are volunteering to serve in areas afflicted with combat. Being deployed to Iraq is foreseeable outcome of your decision. And so it is that when Kimberly Rivera came to Canada seeking asylum, she was fleeing from choices freely made.

It is still quite sad that she has been jailed. Yes, she has reneged on her commitment to the army, but it is difficult to feel too indignant about someone’s decision to no longer kill people.

Her story is troubling. She could not claim persecution to the same degree as Skylar James. However, in deportation hearing, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office claimed that they did not believe Ms. Rivera would be arrested upon deportation. Considering the history of war resisters returned to the United States, this statement means one of two things. Either Mr. Kenney or his spokeswoman was lying, or the U.S. government lied to a Minister of the Crown in order to lock up this mother of four.

And this is where the sadness really sinks in. From the story:

The War Resisters Support Campaign said in a statement Thursday that Rivera presented herself at the U.S. border on Thursday and was arrested and transferred to military custody. They said her family crossed separately so her kids wouldn’t see her arrested.

It is sad that these kids, two of whom were born in Canada, will now be separated from their mother because she did not want to go back and fight a war that Canada does not even support (despite any rhetoric). It is sad that a war that has dragged on for so long continues to destroy lives, both in Iraq and in North America.

Bring the soldiers home.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. A couple military people I know are really confused by this story. They say she should have been eligible for child care hardship.

  2. Just need to emphasize – enlisted in Jan 2006, at the age of 23. It was a fully informed choice – Iraq had been going on for nearly 3 years, Abu Ghraib courts martial were already in progress, and US public opinion had just reached the threshold where more people though the Iraq War was a bad idea than a good idea. http://pewresearch.org/pubs/770/iraq-war-five-year-anniversary

    This was not a kid, not even a high school senior. This was an adult woman that should have been fully aware of the organizational and geopolitical circumstances that surrounded the contract that she signed.

    • You’re absolutely right. Personally, I’m conflicted on this. I don’t generally don’t consider the prosecution of war resisters (from a volunteer army) to be persecution. I’m not even sure what I think should be done in this situation (though I’m not pleased with the dishonesty that is involved, even though I can’t be sure of the source of the dishonesty).

      I just think North America’s current warring ways are partially to blame for these types of situations. I’d rather we dial back our militarism and, hopefully, reduce the number of people who will wind up having these crises of conscience.

      • Jonathan-

        Do you think the seeking of asylum should be predicated on her returning any wages earned or any other benefits taken during her time in the military?

        I am far from a hawk. I just struggle with folks seeking to avoid the consequences of their actions that they could have reasonably foreseen. Without knowing much about Rivera, it bothers me that she seemed to have no issue collecting a paycheck from the military but suddenly had objection when it was her time to earn that pay.

  3. “It is absolutely true that no one forced Kimberly Rivera to join the U.S. army.”

    This is all one needs to know. She is a deserter. One may admire her for deserting, or one may not, but she is a deserter. As such, she needs to take responsibility for her actions.

    “However, in deportation hearing, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office claimed that they did not believe Ms. Rivera would be arrested upon deportation. ”

    I can’t imagine why he would think that. She deserted from the US Army. They tend not to take such things lightly.

    • I’m surprised that Kenney’s office would make such a statement. I wouldn’t put it past them to lie. I also wouldn’t put it past some American official to have lied to the Minister’s office (or someone was sufficiently vague to let the office believe what they chose to believe).

      But I’m kinda cynical.

      Interesting side note, in 2009, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to allow all deserters be granted asylum. I was against the motion back then, but I’m more sympathetic now. We don’t have to respect American law within our borders (it’s problematic if we don’t, but it’s an option).

      • I have no problem with Canada granting asylum. If she had decided to live out her days ice-fishing on Great Bear Lake (or whatever you do in the Frozen North [*]), I would have no problem with it. During the 60s, I seriously considered moving to Canada to avoid the draft (although I would have done so BEFORE being conscripted). However, I would have no expectations of a Jimmy Carter granting amnesty.

        Fortunately for me (unfortunately for some other poor soul), I was 4-F and didn’t have to make that choice.

        As for Kenny, I tell everyone, “get it in writing”. He should know how Americans feel about deserters, and been overly cautious. So to, Kimberly Rivera should have been overly cautious and gotten a statement from the State Department AND the US Army stating that she would not be arrested.

        • Personally, I don’t think Kenney actually cared, and wouldn’t put it past his office to lie or (more likely) stretch the truth – even having it released through a spokesperson gives Kenney some cover (“oh, she misunderstood what I said”).

          This Canadian government is pretty militaristic, much of the government argued in favour of Canadian involvement in Iraq, and they’ve been pretty hostile to refugee claimants. Rivera’s situation is pretty par for the course.

  4. My wife served in the Navy for four years. She did ROTC to get herself through college and owed four years. I also have a number of friends who took a similar path (both remain in the service) as well as a step-brother who joined the Corps through OCS. With the exception of my step-brother, all these folks made their decision around 17 years of age around 1999-2000. This was before 9/11, before either of our major ground wars started, and before any of them were eligible to vote. All of them have doubts about the various missions they’ve been called upon to support. They’ve seen time in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and elsewhere. They’ve been stationed in various places around the country and around the world. As they’ve gotten deeper into the industrial military complex, they’ve been jaded at the gap between how the military portrays itself, particularly to recruits, and how it actually functions. And not one of them considered doing anything but fully fulfilling their duties.

    Rivera is not the first and not the last to attempt to abscond of her responsibilities. But that is exactly what she is doing.

    • I should have said “all remain in the service”, not “both”. It is more than two who remain in the service. Of the people mentioned, only my wife has separated (currently on inactive reserve). For the record, she served as a member of the nursing corps.

  5. I feel like a hypocrite, because my sympathy increased as I read that two of her children were born here in Canada. I probably could care less if it had of been a single guy with no kids from Texas.

    • At the risk of inviting a whole lot of “anchor babies”, I think that’s a valid concern for Canadian policy makers. It shouldn’t be a trump card, but the fact that we’re leaving a couple of young Canadian kids without a mom for (potentially) a few years is something Canada should consider.

Comments are closed.