Kimberly Rivera

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Kimberly Rivera
ResidenceMesquite, Texas, U.S. (until 2007)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada (2007–12)
Known for2007 desertion from military service
Military career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service2006–07
RankPrivate E-1 (No Insignia)(Demoted from PFC)
Battles/warsIraq War

Kimberly Rivera (born c. 1982[1]) is an Iraq war resister and former U.S. Army Private First Class who went AWOL in February 2007 after a year of service.[2] She was the first female U.S. military deserter to flee to Canada.[3] She was deported from Canada on September 20, 2012, and pleaded guilty to desertion, receiving a sentence of ten months' imprisonment and a bad-conduct discharge. Amnesty International objected to her detention and designated her a prisoner of conscience.

Background and military service[edit]

A long-time resident of Mesquite, Texas, Rivera worked at Walmart prior to joining the army, meeting her future husband Mario there. After she and Mario married, they agreed that one of them should join the army for financial reasons, but both were initially too overweight for the army's requirements. Because Rivera shed the weight faster, she enlisted instead of her husband, signing with the U.S. Army in January 2006 for an $8,000 bonus.[4]

She served her first tour of duty in Iraq starting in October of that year and worked primarily as a gate guard. She soon became disillusioned with the mission, later stating that she was particularly influenced by seeing a crying two-year-old Iraqi girl coming with her family to claim compensation for bombing by coalition forces. On another occasion, Rivera claims to have returned to her bunk to find a piece of shrapnel in it. Though she had been initially interested in supporting democracy for the Iraqi people, she stated that she felt she found only "lies" in Iraq and felt betrayed by the U.S. government.[4]

Flight to Canada[edit]

While on leave in early 2007, from which she was supposed to return to her deployed unit, she and her husband made contact with the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, and on February 18, 2007, fled across the border to Canada with their children.[4] Rivera then applied for refugee status.[1]

In January 2009, the Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that Rivera must leave the country by the end of the month. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney described Rivera and other U.S. military deserters as "bogus claimants" for refugee status, calling them "people who volunteer to serve in the armed forces of a democratic country and simply change their mind to desert. And that's fine, that's the decision they have made, but they are not refugees."[5] MPs of the Liberal-NDP coalition responded that their parties would refuse to deport military deserters if they assumed power,[6] while Lee Zalofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign stated that Kenney's remark showed the ministry as biased and unwilling to hear cases in a "fair and impartial manner". Rivera appealed the decision.[5]

Deportation, arrest and court-martial[edit]

In August 2012, five years after her arrival in Canada, Rivera received another deportation order, ordering her to return to the United States by September 20, 2012.[1] Amnesty International stated that it considered Rivera a conscientious objector and would consider her a prisoner of conscience if she were detained.[7][8] On September 20, 2012, Rivera presented herself at the U.S. border.[9] Upon her return to the U.S., she was arrested and transferred to military custody.[10][11]

Subsequent to a plea agreement between Rivera and U.S. military authorities, a sentencing hearing was held April 29, 2013, at Fort Carson, Colorado.[12] After pleading guilty, she was sentenced to ten months' imprisonment and given a bad-conduct discharge.[13]

Rivera submitted a request to the convening authority requesting an early release from prison, so that she would be able to stay with her newborn son (born November 25, 2013 at Balboa Naval Medical Center).[14] This request was rejected on November 27.[15] Supporters of Rivera have called for an "International Day of Action" on December 1, which will include demonstrations and vigils outside military installations and US consulates.[16][17]

Two days after giving birth to her fifth child, Rivera was separated from the child and returned to prison from the hospital to serve the remainder of her sentence.

On 28 November her clemency request for a 45-day reduction of her 10-month sentence was denied by Fort Carson Senior Commander Brigadier General Michael A. Bills.

On 12 December 2013, Kimberly Rivera was released from the Miramar military confinement facility in San Diego, California on the grounds of good behavior and for the performance of extra work duties, including crocheting blankets for wounded veterans.[18]


At the time of Rivera's deportation from Canada, Kimberly and Mario Rivera had four children.[4] Their two eldest children were born in the U.S., and the two youngest in Canada.[19]

Rivera's fifth child, Matthew Kaden, was born on November 25, 2013, while Rivera was in U.S. military confinement.[20]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Charmaine Noronha (August 31, 2012). "US Soldier May Appeal Canadian Deportation Order". ABC News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  2. ^ "U.S. war deserter may appeal Canada deportation". CBC News. Associated Press. August 31, 2012. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  3. ^ "Canada says first US woman military deserter must be deported". WLS. August 31, 2012. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Tamara Jones (December 1, 2008). "Why I went AWOL". Marie Claire. Retrieved September 1, 2012.(subscription required)
  5. ^ a b "Kenney's comments prejudice hearings for war resisters, critics say". CBC News. January 9, 2009. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  6. ^ "Liberal-NDP coalition would protect war resisters from deportation: MPs". CBC News. January 21, 2009. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  7. ^ Ian Robertson (August 31, 2012). "Ottawa sends U.S. deserter home". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  8. ^ Gloria Nafziger (4 September 2012). "Kimberly Rivera ordered to leave Canada". Amnesty International. Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  9. ^ Tim Phillips, "Canadian Authorities Deport Iraq War Resister Kimberly Rivera to the U.S.", Activist Defense, September 20, 2012.
  10. ^ "US soldier who refused to go back to Iraq arrested on return from Canada". NBC News. 21 September 2012. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  11. ^ "US deserter Kimberly Rivera detained at Canada border". BBC News. 20 September 2012. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  12. ^ "Kimberly Rivera to be Sentenced on 29 April". Amnesty International. 12 March 2013. Archived from the original on April 19, 2013. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "U.S. soldier who fled to Canada to avoid Iraq war gets 10 months in jail". The Globe and Mail. 2012-04-29. Retrieved 2013-04-30. A female soldier in the U.S. Army has pleaded guilty to desertion [...] Monday and was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a bad-conduct discharge.
  14. ^ "Press Release: Pregnant War Resister seeks early release from military prison- 495 supporters from around the world write letters in support of clemency application". Free Kimberly Rivera. 2013-11-05. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  15. ^ "Terrible news – Fort Carson denies clemency for Kimberly Rivera". Free Kimberly Rivera. 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  16. ^ "Update #2 – International Day of Action in Solidarity with Kimberly Rivera". Free Kimberly Rivera. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  17. ^ "Supporters challenge Kim Rivera's separation from newborn in Fort Carson protest Sunday". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
  18. ^ "Fort Carson soldier who gave birth while incarcerated released". Colorado Springs Gazette. Retrieved 2013-12-13.
  19. ^ "Canada orders deportation for female US soldier to flee Iraq war posting". The Washington Post. Associated Press. August 30, 2012. Archived from the original on September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  20. ^ "Update: Matthew Rivera has been born". Free Kimberly Rivera. 2013-11-26. Retrieved 2013-11-30.