Mario Rivera interviewed by Bob Meola, Courage to Resist. October 27, 2012

Mario Rivera is the husband of Kimberly Rivera, the U.S. Army War Resister, who was deported from Canada on September 20th.  He is also the father of their four children.  Recently, he shared with us his family’s very dire and challenging situation as Kimberly awaits a likely military court martial. Below is their story, in his words.

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Kimberly left Toronto and voluntarily crossed the border into New York and was handcuffed at the border when she told them who she was.  She was turned over by border officials to Fort Drum personnel.  Fort Drum held her for one day and then they stuck her in the county jail for four days. Then Fort Carson came and got her.   I heard from her when she was approaching the border and was going to turn herself in the next morning.  Then I didn’t hear from her for about 48 hours, until she was in county jail, and she told me what happened.

We [Mario and his four children] left Toronto on the 20th of September. We were picked up at our apartment by some friends from the War Resisters Campaign, who then helped us pack what little stuff we could take with us in their van, and drove to the Peace Bridge by Fort Erie in New York, near Niagara Falls, about two hours from Toronto.

We tried to cross the border.  They asked us to park. They asked me where my passport was. I told them that I didn’t have it because when I crossed into Canada, I didn’t need it.  I just used my driver’s license.  I showed them the deportation order paperwork. They had deported all of us—myself, Christian, and Rebecca. The kids and I were each issued an order. The youngest two kids were born in Canada. They are Canadian citizens.  After about twenty minutes, they finally let us go.  We went to the other checkpoint on the other side of the bridge.  They brought us in there too—on the U.S. side.  It was around 45 minutes before they let us go.

We drove to Mesquite, Texas. The trip took about 25 to 26 hours. We stayed the first night at a little motel and then drove straight through for twenty hours.

We [Mario and Kimberly] have four children. Christian is ten years old. Rebecca is eight. Katie is three. And Gabriel is one-and-a-half.   We said good-bye to Kimberly on September 19th in Toronto and I was left with the kids. We didn’t want them to be exposed to what was going to happen with her.  Christian and Rebecca know what’s going on. The younger ones think that Kimberly is just lost.

I explained to them that Mommy is away for a while and she will come back as soon as she can. Katie thinks she’s lost and wants to go rescue her. She is anxious and nervous about it. She closes herself off from people as she’s missing her mom real bad.

Gabriel too.  He misses his mom real bad.  He holds a picture of her and kisses it and tries to reach through the picture to grab her. He was breast fed until two months before the deportation.  He was being weaned off.

Christian has ADHD. He was getting help for that back in Toronto. It’s been hard to find help for him. We don’t have insurance or money.  He’s full of energy. He has a hard time focusing. He was diagnosed with depression by the school psychologist in Toronto because of the deportation order and his always being afraid of his mom going to jail.

He’d look upset in school and say, ‘I’m scared the soldiers are going to come and take my mommy.’ He was seeing another teacher who helped him. He also went to art therapy with his mom.  He was also burning off his energy in a soccer program that the school provided.  All the programs have been taken away from him.

We can’t afford to see a doctor here. Insurance is too expensive.

Rebecca hides her feelings a little bit. She misses her mom a lot. Every time she talks with her mom on the phone, tears come out of her eyes and she looks physically sick.  Her face gets flushed.  She’s crying but trying to hide it.  She’s trying to show her mom that she’s okay.   But you can see that she’s suffering.

We are staying with my parents in Texas.  It’s pretty hard.  My parents aren’t a well off family.  My dad struggles to find work every day.  He does roofing. Sometimes there is work.  Sometimes there is not.  My mom is physically disabled.  She is barely able to walk as it is.

She has diabetes, high blood pressure and dislocated discs in her back. She’s supposed to be in bed or in a wheelchair 24/7.  She’s trying to walk as best she can with a cane. She’s not really able to.  Sometimes she falls down. She doesn’t want to accept that she shouldn’t be standing and should be in her wheelchair.   She’s on two or three pain medications.  Whatever little money my parents do have is going to doctors and gas money to get to appointments.  She’s on disability.  There is one vehicle they have and it is shared between me and my dad and my two brothers.  For me to get anywhere I need, with the kids, is impossible.  My two brothers, 23 and 18 years old, live in the house. They also help look after my mom.  My 18 year old brother is finishing high school.  My 23 year old brother spends most of his time looking after my mom.

For me, it’s hard to get around. I’m disabled too. I was on disability in Toronto for severe back and joint pain.   It’s pretty hard for me to walk around. I have nerve damage in my thigh. It feels like it’s on fire—like a handful of lit matches on my thigh.  But I’m not on disability here.  I will apply.  I’ve been on depression medications on and off for about four or five years.  I would try a medication for a couple of months to see how it was and then I’d have to get off it because of bad side effects.  That happened each time so far.  I will run out of my depression and my high blood pressure medication within the week.  I’m going to go to the county medical facility.  I’m not sure they will help me.

We spend the food money as best we can. There are nine of us. We eat a lot of rice, even though such a high carb diet isn’t recommended for someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. My wife doesn’t know how hard it is for us here. I try to keep it from her so she doesn’t worry about us. The little money we had, we had to spend on the kids’ uniforms.  The public schools in this district require uniforms. $35 shirts. About $50 for the pants. The girls can wear pants, skirts with leggings, or a dress.  They cost about the same. The only thing they’re not strict about is the shoes they wear.

My son was upset because he had to cut his hair.  It was to his neck. The rules say it can only be halfway down the ears.   He had to chop off four to six inches.

My depression gets bad. I try not to show it for the kids. My physical situation is deteriorating. I have trouble getting out of bed sometimes because of all the pain I’m going through.  My depression will flare up pretty bad sometimes due to my physical pain and being separated from my wife, the situation we are in food-wise, financial-wise, and transportation-wise. There are moments I get lost in my mind.

My kids were used to being in an apartment where we were all in reach of each other 18 hours a day. They went from that to this. I can’t imagine how bad they are feeling being separated from their mom like they are.

I’m 29. Kimberly is 30.  If she was free, she would be able to help with the kids. But she can’t. They need to get out and run and play like kids. I can’t get around outside with them. She could take them out to play. I can’t walk the two blocks it takes to take the kids to school. I can walk the first block and I have to sit down until the pain goes away.

Everything that I had, to cope with the pain, I don’t have any more. In Canada, I was seeing a physical therapist. I was seeing a counselor for my depression.  I was seeing a doctor every week. He was checking my blood pressure every week and my blood sugar every month.  They said I am diabetic. The main thing they were working on was my depression. Because of my depression, I lack the will and desire to do anything.

They were concerned about my liver. They were afraid there might be some scarring. An ultrasound showed that I had a fatty liver.  That causes the liver to get scarred and damaged.  But then we got deported, so I wasn’t able to follow up and get the help I need for that.  I ran out of Metformin – the medication they gave me to protect against scarring – when I got here. I don’t know if the fatty liver has caused scarring.  That’s what they were going to check in Canada.

We have not had much news yet on Kimberly’s legal situation.  Kimberly is not getting paid yet. Her lawyer has been in touch with her. But he says that the unit has not decided yet what they are going to do with her.

Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to the Rivera Family Support Fund:

Courage to Resist staged a vigil at the San Francisco Canadian consulate September 18, 2012 (photo above) in a last-ditch effort to convince Canada to do the right thing.