Early U.S. war deserter ordered deported

Posted by admin on Aug 14th, 2008

Globe and Mail. August 14, 2008

One of the first U.S. army deserters from Iraq to seek refugee status has been ordered deported in a decision that sends the message that the Conservative government isn’t going to protect American soldiers who want to stay in Canada, immigration lawyers say. Jeremy Hinzman, 29, deserted the army in 2004 after learning his unit was to be deployed to Iraq. He was handed the deportation order yesterday after a Citizenship and Immigration officer decided his application, filed under the preremoval risk assessment program, didn’t qualify. The program evaluates the risk a claimant will face if he or she is to be sent back.

Outside the Canada Border Services Agency office where the order came down, Mr. Hinzman was stoic as he walked out with his son, Liam, and his wife, Nga Nguyen, who cradled their three-month-old Canadian-born daughter in her arms. After meeting with his lawyer to discuss whether they’ll appeal the decision, he said he is resigned to going back to the United States. He joked that he’ll miss the traditional Québécois fast food poutine, as well as “everybody that we’ve had the opportunity to meet.”

“Life goes on,” he said. “We’re disappointed, but what can you do?”

The application was Mr. Hinzman’s last chance at remaining in Canada, Canadian Border Service Agency officials said.

“This should be it,” said Vanessa Barrasa, a spokesperson for the agency.

The decision also puts at risk similar applications filed by other U.S. deserters, which will be decided in the coming weeks, said Gordon Maynard, a prominent Vancouver immigration lawyer. Each appeal is decided on a case-by-case basis, and this isn’t precedent-setting, but the decision sends a message that U.S. deserters are going to find it impossible to stay without political support, he said. “There’s not a whole lot of options left for these guys,” Mr. Maynard said. “There are clearly political considerations here. … The law doesn’t offer protection to these guys. It will take a discretionary political decision to save them.”

Mr. Hinzman, a former paratrooper from Fort Bragg, N.C., fled to Canada along with his wife and son and sought refugee status. He said he still believes he and other deserters did the right thing by coming to Canada rather than fighting in Iraq, despite the potential for jail time upon return.

“Every solider who has refused to fight in Iraq hasn’t contributed to killing innocent people,” Mr. Hinzman said.

The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected Mr. Hinzman’s refugee claim in 2005 and the Federal Court of Appeal held that he wouldn’t face any serious punishment if returned to the United States. The decision yesterday upheld the appeal court ruling. Mr. Hinzman has been ordered out of the country by Sept. 23.

“It’s a terrible thing that the government of Canada doesn’t listen to the Parliament of Canada or the many people who support war resisters in Canada,” said Jeffry House, a Toronto-based lawyer who has represented Mr. Hinzman in the past. Mr. House said Mr. Hinzman will likely face jail time if returned.

The setback for Mr. Hinzman follows June’s non-binding, majority vote in the House of Commons calling for resisters to be granted asylum in Canada. There are at least nine war resisters waiting to hear decisions from the preremoval risk assessment program, said Michelle Robidoux, a spokesman for the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign.

“This sends a chilling message to those going through the same process,” she said. “It’s creating a wave of stress among everybody. If Jeremy Hinzman, who has a wife and kids, can be kicked out, what about the single guys who have been here for a shorter period of time?”

Last month, Robin Long became the first U.S. war resister to be deported from Canada. He is currently being held at a county jail in Fort Carson, Colo., and will appear in a trial by court-martial in early September, said Lieutenant-Colonel George Wright, an acting deputy director in U.S. Army Public Affairs, in an interview from Washington.

With a report from The Canadian Press.

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