Afghan girls granted USA visas for robotics competition after twice being denied

Team Afghanistan – FIRST Global

Photo Teenagers from the Afghanistan Robotic House worked on a robot in Herat.

Earlier this month hearts broke for a team of robot-building girls from Afghanistan who were twice denied visas into the United States to attend a robotics competition.

The teenagers were denied access to the US under the president's executive order on travel after making multiple trips to their country's capital depsite the dangers of the war-torn region.

Officials say the administration could not be prouder of these young female scientists.

Members of a robotics team from Gambia were also granted visas Wednesday after being previously being barred from entering, as the Associated Press reported.

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Competition organizers and USA officials announced on Wednesday that the six Afghan girls will be able to participate in the contest, which takes place July 16-18.

It was unclear why the girls were barred entry into USA since Afghanistan is not part of Trump's order to temporarily ban travel from six Muslim-majority countries.

Afghanistan is not included in Trump's travel ban, but it's tremendously hard, bordering on impossible, for its citizens to obtain a visa.

While those rooting for this team of girls will undoubtedly be thrilled at the news, the culture that allowed for the team of girls to be blocked in the first place may make the victory a little bit bittersweet.

According to Politico, Trump intervened to grant the robotics teams visas after hearing about the situation.

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The U.S. State Department had declined to comment on why the Afghan team's visa applications were denied, saying that "all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law".

The stated goal for FIRST Global is to inspire youth around the world to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Girls from 160 countries, according to the report, would attend the contest to show their abilities and Afghan girls would demonstrate their talents in making robots at the event, reports Xinhua news agency. The DHS agreed to allow the girls to enter to the United States on temporary "parole" status, which allows them to stay briefly in the country without an official visa on the grounds that there is a public benefit to them visiting, the administration officials added.

Mr. Sestak said that he did not know why the Afghan team's visa applications were not approved, but that he suspected it stemmed from a backlog of requests or cautious officials concerned that they may overstay their visas.

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