President Donald Trump reportedly urged U.S. officials to allow girls from Afghanistan to enter the country so they could compete in an international robotics contest.
The Department of State originally denied the Afghan girls visas at least twice, causing some backlash among the public. Trump made the decision to intervene after hearing the story of their rebuff and specifically requested that officials within the National Security Council (NSC) find out if they could reverse the judgement, according to Politico.
After conferring with the NSC, the Department of Homeland Security later agreed to grant the girls access to the U.S. for a 10 day period but not through a visa.
Authorities did not precisely explain why the girls were originally rejected, but they say they are now happy the girls can participate.
“The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately,” said Dina Powell, Trump’s deputy national security adviser for strategy, Politico reports. “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. They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country.”
While Afghanistan is not one of the nations the Trump administration lists as a target for a travel ban, it is comprised of a majority of Muslims. (RELATED: Immigrant-Laden Tech Industry Takes Trump To Court Over Immigration Ban)
“Teams under the Executive Order on travel such as Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and a team of Syrian refugees have all recently received their visas even after parts of the E.O. [executive order],” reads a press release made available to The Daily Caller News Foundation from FIRST Global, the international organization that created and coordinates the contest.
The girls admission means that all 163 teams from 157 countries have gained approval to enter the U.S. Refugees from Syria and youth representatives from Gambia, Yemen, Libya, Vanuatu and Morocco also recently received explicit permission to come to the U.S. (RELATED: Reminder: Trump’s ‘Far-Reaching’ And ‘Extreme’ Vetting Measures Took Root Under Obama)
“I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences,” FIRST Global President, former U.S. Navy Admiral and congressman Joe Sestak said in a statement. “That is why I am most grateful to the US Government and its State Department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this international competition this year.”
The stated goal for FIRST Global is to inspire youth around the world to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“We want to develop and explore our minds and creativity and maybe unveil the genius inside of each one of us,” the Afghan girls team wrote on its official page. “This opportunity would allow us to invent, design, and create things that could possibly allow our community, our lives, and us.”
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