Wednesday February 19, 2020
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Meet Kelly Oliveira, Brazilian By Birth But ‘American’ By Heart

Embarking on a 'new journey'

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Kelly Oliveira reacts after becoming a U.S. Citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland.
Kelly Oliveira reacts after becoming a U.S. Citizen during a naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland. VOA

When Brazilian native Kelly Oliveira signed up for the U.S. Army through a program that offered her citizenship for her service, she thought she had it made.

But it took two years for the army to work through the added background checks. During that time she struggled to remain legal.

Oliveira finally made it through the process and was sworn in as a citizen last week.

She took the oath on a day designated to honor the U.S. flag, a group of 28 people from 18 countries became American citizens at the historic house where the flag that inspired the national anthem was made.

“I learned to love this country that I adopted as my own. … I’ve always [thought] of myself as an American by heart,” she said.

But it took 13 years to make it official. On a day designated to honor the U.S. flag, a group of 28 people, including Oliveira, from 18 countries became American citizens at the historic house where the flag that inspired the national anthem was made.

“It’s been a long journey. … Of course there were moments that I was thinking ‘Should I continue waiting?’” she said.

Oliveira’s wait was due to changes in a military program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI reported on by VOAlast December. It was launched in 2009 to bring immigrants with medical or language skills into the armed services.

Kelly Oliveira examines paperwork before her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland.
Kelly Oliveira examines paperwork before her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland. VOA

She enlisted in the Army in March 2016 under MAVNI, which promised her citizenship in exchange for service.

Enlisting for status

Oliveira had tried other ways to stay legal. But nothing worked.

“I went to school and I had my OPT, and I got a teaching position job as a preschool teacher,” Oliveira said.

The OPT or Optional Practical Training allows international students with an F-1 visa to work in the U.S. for up to one year in a field related to their studies. She tried to get a work visa through the schools where she was employed at the time.

“Unfortunately the school where I was working at; they could not [sponsor] me,” she said.

That’s when she entered the MAVNI program. But on June 2016, the program was shut down, which affected Oliveira’s enlistment.

The U.S. government retroactively required background checks on anyone who had enlisted in the military through the MAVNI program, including anyone who was currently serving or waiting to be shipped to basic training.

For Oliveira that meant a two-year wait. She went to training drills and struggled to stay legal.

Those who witnessed her journey said it was tough. “I don’t think I’d be able to do it because it’s, I mean, it’s been a, it’s been a long journey. It’s been a struggle and it’s, it’s been like a nightmare,” Lauren Schroeder, a D.C. native who has been friends with Oliveira for many years, told VOA.

“I mean the down was the fact that it took so long. And I guess the up is that she was able to join the military and get a citizenship that way. So finally, it happened,” Schroeder said.

Kelly Oliveira, during her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland
Kelly Oliveira, during her naturalization ceremony in Baltimore, Maryland, VOA

Embarking on a ‘new journey’

Margaret Stock, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who created the MAVNI program, told VOA she is not surprised by Oliveira’s successful story.

“That’s what’s supposed to happen. They’re eligible for citizenship and they’re supposed to be able to get it quickly,” Stock said.

But the retired Army lieutenant colonel said, even though there are stories like Oliveira’s, lots of recruits are still falling out of status due to the additional checks.

“So people are timing out and they can’t ship out to basic training until the [U.S. government] completes all these background checks,” she said.

In a previous interview with VOA, Stock said everyone who wants to serve in the military has to go through background checks but the government was already doing a lot more background checking on the MAVNIs.

“They are the most checked group of people that entered the U.S. military,” Stock said adding this is an investigation normally done on someone getting top-secret clearance with the U.S. government.

On Flag Day, Oliveira signed the papers. She checked in with immigration officials. Then the ceremony started.

Also read: Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

“Sky’s the limit for me now it’s just the beginning of my new journey. Now I’m going to basic training in a couple of months, and I’m very excited about that,” Oliveira said. (VOA)

Next Story

Protecting India From Cyber Attacks

Operation Cyber Freedom: Securing over a billion dreams from adversarial entities

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Cyber attacks
Cyber attacks point to the activation of bot farms consisting of millions of zombie devices that have been hacked. Pixabay

BY VINIT GOENKA

We are part of a thriving, young, and vibrant nation. We also belong to a civilization that is timeless in age backed by a culture that has gifted the world spiritual enlightenment, technological progress and unbound and selfless wisdom. At no point in time were we anything but givers to the global community as a whole. Today, as the winds of technology blow, Indian minds are not just powering this revolution but leading it as well.

A nation of our stature also attracts the attention of the wrong kind. In the last few years, we have seen reports of how actors backed by nation-states and non-state actors consistently attacking our critical and non-critical infrastructure for various reasons. These attacks are not limited to the defense sector alone. Healthcare, transport, IT, telecom have each been attacked in the recent past. Such attacks point to the activation of bot farms consisting of millions of zombie devices that have been hacked to serve as a source of processing capacity for launching cyberattacks on India.

Cyber attacks
Some of the cyber attacks are being carried out with the discipline of a regular army. Pixabay

Some of these attacks are being carried out with the discipline of a regular army. It carries all the signatures thereof — including high levels of research and reconnaissance, multiple attacks to gain entry, precision targeting, disciplined and patient approach towards creating a beachhead, and, last but not least, persistent attempts to hack and acquire information. Such attacks need to be countered at various levels, and we need to evolve and deploy a cybersecurity doctrine that affords us protection and secures our infrastructure, minds, and resources.

The environment

There is a rapid deterioration of international stability across our immediate neighborhood, the Middle East, Eastern, and Central Europe alone with continuing geopolitical turmoil that is shaping foreign and domestic policy decisions around energy and defence. The challenge for all of us is the character of the competition being fueled by nefarious means is being conducted by authoritarian opponents who are part of nations that have not tasted democracy in its entirety ever. They also have armed forces who have been issued carte blanche by their political masters to indulge in international chicanery that ends at the doorsteps of democracies like ours and harms our growth aspirations.

Our adversaries are not just attacking the foundational pillars of our existence as a nation but also attacking our way of life and our freedoms in a manner that is quite difficult to defeat without undermining those very freedoms we seek to protect. Our adversaries are making a concerted attempt to undermine cohesion, erode economic, political, and social resilience, and challenge our strategic position in our part of the world. Such efforts have to be met with a level of resistance that doesn’t merely defeat these machinations but also serves to deter future attempts.

The increasing digitization of our growth is opening new ways to execute a type of “political warfare” that relies on the use and abuse of information, online espionage, state-backed cyberattacks, and intellectual property theft, among other things. The chain doesn’t stop here. It is often backed by the promotion of misinformation and fake news in cyberspace.

Our response

We need to address this challenge through a strategic response that integrates all levers of power and operations. We need to bring in a renewed coherence and consistency to our defence strategy for the next decade, which will be a critical one as we aim at becoming a $5 trillion economy. We need to be able to strike and protect a dimension that emerges from the integration of five domains that are space, cyber and information, air, maritime, and land. This integration will change the way we fight and the way we develop the capability to protect and defend.

Cyber attacks
Cyber attacks need to be countered at various levels, and we need to evolve and deploy a cybersecurity doctrine. Pixabay

Our armed forces, in the future, will have to develop and deploy a strategy that gives them the ability to operate at a micro and nano levels with a small force while moving faster relying on a very high degree of mobility, electronic warfare and passive deception measures to maintain the information advantage we possess now. More and more automated, supervised, and autonomous platforms will be integrated in a manner to enable the faster introduction of new tech as also the ability to defend or strike hard as required while maintaining a deterrence posture that conveys strength and resilience. Disabling of adversarial infrastructure for the short or long term will be a part of this measure.

Such a high level of modernization will need us to embrace information-centric technologies and approaches. We also need to recognise the need for the application of a blend of technologies such as computing power, connectivity, machine learning, IoT and artificial intelligence [AI],

automation, autonomy, and quantum computing to attain the disruptive power we need.

The path ahead

We need to initiate work on multiple projects in parallel to support the goals I have outlined previously without losing focus. These projects should focus on areas where ethical technologies and a high level of automation can bring a plethora of advantages while we redefine data as a strategic and uncompromisable asset. The industry in India needs to back us on this front.

Also Read- Here’s Why India Should Expand its Financial Infrastructure

We must embrace open, outwardly facing innovation across all segments and outsource to strategic partners. No one can do everything anymore, as this leads to erosion of core competencies and dilution of strengths. A high level of collaboration with the academic and entrepreneurial ecosystem is the need of the hour. We must utilise technology scouts to amplify our R&D capabilities and support universities, research centres, startups, and established companies looking to develop strategic alliances with the right partners. (IANS)