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Immigration Law

An American Dies in Uniform...Still Waiting (UPDATED)

Tara Copp, Military Times, Apr. 20, 2018 - "Spc. Nemanja “Yani” Janicijevic, 25, an immigrant soldier who died last week while waiting 11 months for the military to clear him for duty, had been naturalized months before and was a U.S. citizen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told Military Times Friday. The news of Janicijevic’s U.S. citizenship raised even more questions around a puzzling and tragic end for a U.S. soldier who spent 336 days in limbo at Fort Lee, Virginia, starting after his May 2017 graduation from advanced individual training and continuing until the day of his death. There were no answers yet as to what bureaucratic failure kept Janicijevic from moving on to his duty station in Germany. ... U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services confirmed he was naturalized in March 2017. For unknown reasons, Janicijevic was still evaluated under the MAVNI program, which meant that while his fellow soldiers graduated from AIT and went on to report to their duty stations in South Korea, Kuwait and all over the world, Janicijevic was left behind. Because of the new security guidelines, Janicijevic was not allowed to depart to do the job he’d been trained to do, which was to serve as a diagnostic equipment support specialist with the 832nd Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade. Instead he waited for the military to finish checking his background under enhanced vetting procedures for foreign recruits. There was no clear explanation by the Pentagon or the Army on Friday as to why Janicijevic was left at Fort Lee, and no answers yet as to whether officials within the Office of the Secretary of Defense had even started to process the additional screening requirements for Janicijevic — or why they would have even had to do that since he was already a U.S. citizen."

Tara Copp, Military Times, Apr. 19, 2018 - "A Fort Lee soldier caught in the bureaucratic limbo of the Pentagon’s new “extreme vetting” for non-citizen service members has died while waiting for the military to clear him for duty, Military Times has learned. Spc. Nemanja “Yani” Janicijevic, 25, died April 12 during a physical fitness training session at Fort Lee, Virginia, installation officials said in a statement. He had been stuck at Fort Lee for 11 months after his graduation from advanced individual training, up to the day of his death. Janicijevic, who was from Belgrade, Serbia, entered the military under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, and was trained as a diagnostic equipment support specialist with the 832nd Ordnance Battalion, 59th Ordnance Brigade. MAVNI is a pilot program that helps the military fill critical capability gaps such as foreign languages or medical skills by allowing non-U.S. citizens with those skills to enlist and earn citizenship. ... As Janicijevic waited, suspicion over foreign-born recruits took hold within the Pentagon’s administrative ranks, despite generations of immigrant soldiers who have fought, died and become highly decorated members of the U.S. military, said retired Army Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, who now specializes in military immigration legal issues. “DoD has officially made all of the MAVNIs into second-class citizens who have been labeled ‘security threats’ because of their foreign birth,” Stock said. ... Janicijevic was on his 336th day of waiting to be vetted when he died. ... Stock said the Pentagon has neither the manpower nor the interest in processing holdover recruits — soldiers like Janicijevic who are stuck in the program’s bureaucracy. “Some of these are new [background] checks made up solely for MAVNIs,” Stock said. “Most of the new checks are done by paper pushers at the Pentagon. DoD doesn’t have enough qualified paper pushers to do them, so they take years to complete. And they aren’t bothering to do them on the ‘holdovers.’ So the ‘holdovers’ just sit there on training bases, killing time. Most will finish their enlistment contracts as holdovers.” Eastburn would not say how many MAVNI service members are still waiting to clear all of the security checks. Both Campbell and Wagner expressed their surprise that Janicijevic hadn’t been able to move on. “I thought he’d be a couple of months at most,” Wagner said. “I didn’t realize he’d be there over a year. It’s kind of baffling.” Janicijevic was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist, the Army said."