Gimme Shelter

U.S. military deserters once again flock to Canada to avoid war. Looks like this time they picked the wrong country.

January 23 is cold and overcast, and only four days remain before the Riveras are scheduled to be deported. Manning, their lawyer, hasn't yet heard from the federal court about a stay of deportation, and all they can do at this point is pray. On this chilly morning, Kim has awoken with a head cold. Christian and Rebecca are chasing each other around the living room of the family's two-bedroom apartment on the upper floor of a cramped high-rise.

"Stop that," Rivera tells them. "Mommy's sick." She shakes her head. "Who knows what's going to happen to me in the next few days, and I'll be sick on top of it. Great."

She rises from the couch to dress and run errands. She'll strap the baby to her chest and go to the pharmacy to pick up Mario's medication for high blood pressure. She tries to take good care of her husband. She's well aware of the fact that they are in this situation because of her, and while she doesn't regret joining the Army, she says, "I needed the experience to open my eyes." Sometimes when she looks at her husband, she is amazed. "I can't believe I found someone to love me through all of this," she says. "It's amazing. I mean, we've known each other since we were 17, and he stuck with me through everything. Not even my parents could do that."

Kim Rivera, the first female Iraq war deserter to seek refuge in Canada, waits for a streetcar in Toronto.
Ian Willms
Kim Rivera, the first female Iraq war deserter to seek refuge in Canada, waits for a streetcar in Toronto.
Lee Zaslofsky, a Brooklyn-born Vietnam deserter who runs the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, protests the deportation of American deserters.
Ian Willms
Lee Zaslofsky, a Brooklyn-born Vietnam deserter who runs the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, protests the deportation of American deserters.

While she cooks eggs in the kitchen, the phone rings. Mario, sitting at the computer, picks it up. His eyes widen as he listens.

"Oh, that's great. Wait until I tell Kimberly," he says.

He listens and nods and then hangs up. He calls to his wife, who appears holding a spatula.

"So unfortunately, Alyssa called about the stay," he tells her.

Rivera's breath catches. "Uh-huh?"

"We didn't get it," he says, trying unsuccessfully to disguise his grin.

"Are you messing with me?" Rivera says.

Her husband laughs. "We got it."

"For how long?"

"Maybe through June. We don't know."

Rivera exhales, her shoulders relaxing a bit. "All I can say is thank God."

Mario nods. "That buys us a few months," he says. "But we're not out of the woods yet."

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