Deserter's cause taken up by activists at Miramar
Robin Long was deported from Canada and is serving
time at the air base. He is separated from his
ailing Canadian partner and their child.
By Tony Perry (the
Los Angeles Times)
January 14, 2009
Reporting from San Diego — Antiwar activists have taken
up the cause of an Army deserter who was deported from
Canada and is now being held at the brig at Marine Corps
Air Station Miramar.
Two dozen members of Military Families Speak Out and San
Diego Veterans for Peace protested Tuesday afternoon
outside the base in support of Robin Long, a onetime
Army private who was sentenced in August to 15 months
behind bars and a dishonorable discharge.
The activists support Long's view that the Iraq war is
illegal and say his sentence is particularly cruel
because it could prevent him from returning to his sick
girlfriend and their 2-year-old son in Canada. Canadian
law makes it difficult for convicted felons to enter
"Here's a guy who did what his conscience told him to
do," said Dave Patterson, who was in the Air Force
during the Vietnam War.
"Why do we need to put him in prison? That's crazy."
Long, 25, of Boise, Idaho, enlisted in 2003 and deserted
in 2005 when his Ft. Carson, Colo.-based unit was
ordered to Iraq. He fled to British Columbia and applied
for refugee status on the grounds that, as an opponent
of the war in Iraq, he would suffer irreparable harm if
returned to the United States.
Long's application was rejected and he was deported in
July. His court-martial case is on appeal to a military
appeals court. Also, activists have appealed to
President-elect Barack Obama to pardon Long.
Long was the first U.S. service member who sought
sanctuary in Canada to be deported. His deportation
caused a political controversy in Canada because it
seemed to signal a reversal of Canada's welcoming
attitude toward deserters and draft resisters from the
U.S. during the Vietnam war. About half a dozen American
service members in Canada are now believed to be facing
As the Long case continued, the lower house of the
Canadian parliament passed a nonbinding motion calling
on the government to allow U.S. deserters to remain in
The Conservative Party government has not followed that
In Canada, Long met a Canadian woman, fathered a child
and opened a business encouraging water conservation by
replacing grass lawns with less thirsty plants. His
attorneys believe that Canada and the U.S. military have
dealt harshly with him as an example to other troops.
"It's such a waste," said James M. Branum, Long's
Joel Guberman, an immigration lawyer in Toronto who is
not involved in the Long case, said a deportation order
and a criminal conviction will make it difficult, but
not impossible, for Long to return to Canada.
Guberman said Canadian law allows three avenues of
appeal: Long could seek a "waiver of admissibility"
based on the argument that desertion from the U.S. Army
is not a serious crime in Canada. He could wait five
years and assert that he has been rehabilitated. Or, he
could get a hearing after being sponsored for return by
his girlfriend, a Canadian citizen.
"It's not quite as dire as I'm hearing," he said in a
Military rules prohibit brig prisoners from talking to
reporters. But before he was deported, Long was quoted
on an activist website as saying, "Regardless of what
hardships I go through, I could have put Iraqi families
through more hardships. I have no regrets."