KIMBERLY RIVERA, 27 - Refusnik

Courage To Resist, June 18th 2009

HOMETOWN: Mesquite, Texas
ARRIVED: February 18, 2007
STATUS: Refugee application denied, judicial review of her deportation order is scheduled for July

Army recruiters called my house 20 times when I was in high school, and I knew that the only way I’d be able to afford an education was if I joined. My sign-up bonus would be $8,000, and my college and health care would be covered. I was 17 when I joined the reserves.

Image credit: Derek Shapton
Five months into my training, I discovered I was pregnant. They gave me an honourable discharge, and I moved in with my boyfriend, Mario. We had our first child, Christian, then our second, Rebecca. We had no health insurance, and the stress made me a terrible person: I threw shoes at my husband, threw the TV off the balcony. In January 2006, I rejoined the army. Mario and I got married that same month.

That October, my unit left for Iraq, and I spent three months patting down civilians as a gate guard. Most of my fellow soldiers treated me like a sister, but not all of them. Some of them would hound me: “You look so fine, I want to get with you.” It was the most attention I’d had in my whole life. When I got back to Mesquite from Iraq, I realized how much I missed Mario and how badly I wanted out of the army—it was too hard on our relationship. We left Texas in January 2007 and drove north. By the time we got to Kansas City, I was having second thoughts. I wrote out a pros and cons list. If I left, I’d lose my furniture, which was at the base in Fort Carson, Colorado Springs, and my salary—$1,200 every two weeks. If I went back to Iraq, my marriage wouldn’t survive, and I’d lose my peace of mind.

We crossed at the Rainbow Bridge, said we were going shopping, and the guards waved us through. For three months, we lived with a family in Oakville who had volunteered to house resisters. That April, we moved to a one-bedroom apartment at King and Jameson. For nine months, I worked at Cobs Bread in Kensington; then I had my third kid, Katie. Mario took a course to operate a forklift, but neither of us has a work permit. We sit around waiting for the government to decide what to do with us—they put a stay on my deportation order this past March. When we first arrived in Canada, I still felt paranoid and unhappy—like I was back in Iraq. Now it’s our home.