Every leading pacifist in town crowded into a meeting room at the Steelworkers Hall last Friday, August 31, to support war resister Kimberley Rivera, who's just been ordered deported by September 20.
From former Iraq hostage Jim Loney to venerable Quaker Frank Showler to Canada Peace Alliance's Sid Lacombe, the room throbbed with anti-militarism.
It would all have been majorly uplifting if it hadn't been for the tear-stained face of Rivera, a former Walmart employee from Mesquite, Texas, who had the temerity to publicly say, as she did on Friday, that as a U.S. soldier she had "participated in the oppression" of Iraqi civilians.
There's no hiding the fact that the former member of the 2nd Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colorado, dislikes being in the spotlight and is bravely soldiering through all the attention. While serving as a gate guard in Iraq, she told the assembled, she refused to wear her gun. When she got in trouble for it, she brought the piece along, but not the bullets.
Immigration officials, it seems, don't care a fig for international covenants protecting conscientious objectors, but then again, they might just have been keeping an ear out for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who tainted the process by declaring resisters "bogus refugees."
"My biggest fear," said Rivera, a Parkdale resident and mother of four, sombrely, "is being separated from my children while I'm sitting in prison."
According to the War Resisters Support Campaign's Michelle Robidoux, the U.S. military is practising "differential punishment" on resisters; typically AWOL soldiers get an administrative discharge, maybe a loss of benefits, but not jail time. But two resisters already deported from Canada, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, were court-martialed, the former receiving a 15-month sentence and the latter 12.
Rivera has sweated through three years of immigration decisions and an appeal; now she awaits word on her application for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Her lawyer, Alyssa Manning, warned that if she's forced to cross the border, the former GI will be returned to Fort Carson. "We anticipate she'd get two to five years," she said.
Every soldier who refuses a war bestows a gift that enriches us all. Flood Kenney's office with emails and phone calls. We can't lose this one.