Monday July 16, 2018
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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
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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)

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Would Nick Jonas Actually Want To Marry Priyanka Chopra?

if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend

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Priyanka chopra and Nick Jonas looking forward to form a martial alliance.
if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend. Pixabay

Many, many years ago, the doyen of Marathi-Hindi cinema V. Shantaram was told by his daughter, the actress Rajshri, that she wanted to marry her American boyfriend Greg Chapman.

Shantaram was at that time in the midst of pre-production for a film called “Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti”. He stared at his daughter with disbelieving eyes, unwilling to accept that she would betray her father in this way.

“And the best thing was, Shantaramji wasn’t worried about Raj — her pet name — marrying an American. He was only worried about his film. He quickly told his daughter to do whatever she wanted to and signed Mumtaz to play the lead opposite me,” recalls veteran actor Jeetendra, a close friend of Rajshri.

Her last film in India “Suhaag Raat” was with Jeetendra who visits his pal Raj even now when he is in the US.

Rajshri’s marriage to Greg Chapman has lasted for more than 35 years. Once she moved to the US with Greg, she never looked back, never had a hankering to return. Theirs is a marriage that defies all cross-cultural scepticism, forging as it did an alliance that went far deeper than the passport could ever record.

Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl?
Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl? Flickr

I don’t know if Priyanka Chopra would marry her American boyfriend. I can’t see her giving it all up like Rajshri to make a life in the US, unless Priyanka’s mother plans to make Nick her ghar-jamai (house husband). Would Nick Jonas, a hot favourite gay icon in the US, actually want to forge a marital alliance with our Desi Girl?

Something tells me this relationship lacks the staying-power of the Rajshri-Greg alliance. I will tell you why. For one, Greg had nothing to do with show business. He had no clue Rajshri was a star in India when they met in the US while she was shooting with Raj Kapoor for his globally-shot fiasco “Around The World”. Raj Kapoor would later joke that the only good thing that came out of this expensive disaster was Rajshri’s marriage.

In my experience, marriage of showbiz celebrities work best when the spouse is totally detached from the entertainment world. Nick and Priyanka are on the same side of the celebrity circus. Not good.

Rajshri gave it all up for Greg. It wasn’t just love. Rajshri didn’t care a damn about being an actress. Would Priyanka be able to give it all up? And to be politically correct, let’s take the reverse course — would Nick be willing to give it all up and settle down in India?

I am sure Shah Rukh Khan would find a vacancy for him at Red Chillies.

While the future of Desi Girl’s bonding with the Firangi Munda remains uncertain, I am reminded of the most famous American to have dated an Indian actress. Hollywood superstar Gregory Peck dated 1950s diva Suraiya for a fleeting phase when he visited India. He was really taken up with the beauteous actress. But Suraiya’s grandmother didn’t see Gregory Miyan as a son-in-law.

Also read: Priyanka Chopra’s subtle reply when asked about her marriage

On the rebound, Suraiya had a long relationship with the Gregory Peck lookalike Dev Anand. Alas, that too was a doomed alliance. But that’s another story. (IANS)