Trump intervenes to allow group of Afghan girls into U.S. for robotics competition

By Ray Downs  |  July 12, 2017 at 10:38 PM
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July 12 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump personally intervened to allow a group of Afghan girls into the United States to participate in a robotics contest after the State Department had previously denied their entry.

"I look forward to welcoming this brilliant team of Afghan girls, and their competitors, to Washington, D.C. next week! #WomenInSTEM," tweeted Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and assistant.

According to Politico, the girls will be allowed entry under a special system called "parole," which means they will not be given visas but will be allowed to remain in the country for a period of 10 days.

The State Department did not explain why the girls were initially denied entry into the U.S., but Dina Powell, Trump's deputy national security adviser for strategy, said officials worked with the Department of Homeland Security to "ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately."

"We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists - they represent the best of the Afghan people and embody the promise that their aspirations can be fulfilled," Powell said. "They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country."

The girls will participate in the FIRST Global Challenge, an annual international robotics competition designed to "ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world," according to the organization's website.

Trump's decision to intervene comes after human rights groups criticized the U.S.'s decision to initially deny the girls entry. Human Rights Watch pointed out that the girls overcame societal and cultural obstacles to receive a science-based education and then went through the lengthy procedure to get accepted into the contest, including traveling 500 miles to Kabul to apply for travel visas.

"The number of girls attending school in parts of the country is falling due to rising insecurity and poverty, and declining donor support. The Taliban's grip on the country is growing and their desire to deny girls education largely unchanged," said Heather Barr, senior researcher of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch. "This context makes the achievements of the robotics team exceptional."

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