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Canada deports U.S. war resister

Published Feb 23, 2009 10:02 PM

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered to U.S. border police on Feb. 4 after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army and was hauled off to the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Wash., 20 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.

Cornell’s attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest. “Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart,” said attorney James Branum. “He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing. ... I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him in a county jail. ... This should not have happened.”

Branum won the battle for Cornell to go to Fort Stewart on his own. The soldier boarded a bus from Seattle to Fort Stewart on Feb. 7, meeting Branum there on Feb. 9. He is expected to face court martial.

Cornell, 28, left for Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. Despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada’s Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations.

“Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail,” said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. “He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law. President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters.”

Cornell follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July and is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Brig near San Diego. Long was also jailed in Bellingham after being hauled across the Canada-U.S. border.

“We want Bellingham to be a sanctuary city for war resisters,” said Gene Marx of Bellingham Veterans For Peace, “not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison.”

Vets for Peace push for sanctuary city

Bellingham is known for being a progressive city. Its City Council has passed two anti-war resolutions recently. The Whatcom Peace and Justice Center held a public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell outside of the county jail on Feb. 5.

Chris Teske, a former U.S. Army paratrooper and infantryman who refused recall to Iraq after serving two tours in Afghanistan, also returned to the U.S. from Canada in late January following deportation orders. He was not arrested, and is currently consulting legal counsel to turn himself in, according to Sarah Lazar of Courage To Resist. “It seems as hard as I try to forget the institution which enslaved me, they have not forgotten about me,” Teske said.

To see more information on Cornell’s defense or to read a new organizing paper, “Resisting Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) recall,” see www.couragetoresist.org.

Lazar wrote that three other resisters—Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart and Dean Walcott—were ordered to leave Canada in recent weeks. They appealed through the Canadian judicial system and won temporary stays. This will delay deportation a few months and could possibly lead to successful appeals.

Several more war resisters—including Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key and Matt Lowell—have been fighting deportation orders for months and have thus far avoided deportation. In a remarkable legal victory, a federal court in Canada rejected the Immigration and Refugee Board’s reasons for denying refugee status to Joshua Key and ordered a new hearing.

Some 64 percent of Canadians favor granting U.S. war resisters permanent residency, leaving Canada as a viable option for U.S. resisters despite the stance of the current Canadian government.