Afghan robotics team allowed to travel to USA after Trump intervenes

Team Afghanistan – FIRST Global

Ivanka Trump shows support for Afghan girls' robotics team that had visas denied

A Homeland Security Department spokesman said in an email that the agency had approved a request from the State Department for the six girls on the robotics team and their chaperone to enter the country and attend the competition, which is set to bring teams from more than 160 countries to Washington next week.

This is a temporary status given to a person who is otherwise ineligible to travel to a country, allowing them entry for an emergency, humanitarian objective or public interest.

United States authorities had originally refused access to schoolchildren from a number of Muslim-majority nations to participate in the science contest, decisions that followed implementation of stricter visa policies under Trump.

The non-profit organizing the competition celebrated the reversal in a jubilant statement Wednesday.

Critics had argued that the visa denials sent the wrong message to Afghanistan, where US troops are still fighting Taliban militants who once barred girls from attending school.

Students from The Gambia also had their visa rejection overturned. Farooqi and her teammates worked seven days a week, for six months, to build their robot, and twice made the risky 500-mile trip from Herat to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. He credited "the professional leadership of the U.S. State Department" for ensuring that all 163 teams from 157 countries, including a team of Syrian refugees, would be able to participate.

"We cried a lot after we heard our visa was rejected", added 15-year-old Kowser Roshan.

The three-day robotics competition begins Sunday in Washington.

"We want to develop and explore our minds and creativity and maybe unveil the genius inside of each one of us", reads the Afghan team's introduction on the contest's website.

First Global, a not-for-profit charity, holds the annual worldwide robotics challenge in hopes of sparking a passion for science and technology among high school students around the world.

According to the competition's news release, a team from Gambia has also been approved for travel to the U.S. after its application for visas was initially denied. Sestak said the State Department was a "star player" in the entire process of coordinating travel for the competing teams, but he had no direct knowledge of Trump's involvement.

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