Six teenage girls from Afghanistan are headed to the U.S. to see the robot they designed compete in an international technology competition after President Donald Trump stepped in to reverse U.S. officials’ decisions that had twice denied the girls visas to enter the country. Politico broke the news on Wednesday evening of the last-minute decision that will let the high-schoolers, who hail from western Afghanistan, to attend the competition. In a frustrating twist, the robot the teens have built, which is able to sort balls, had been cleared for entry into the U.S., but the girls’ requests for visas, inexplicably, been denied, despite the teens having gone to great lengths to secure the proper documentation.
News of the girls rejected attempts to obtain visas went viral last week and stirred up global outrage. The girls had made two separate 500-mile journeys to the American embassy in Kabul, but had still been denied visas. State Department officials gave no reason for the rejection. Criticism mounted and after Trump was made aware of the case, Politico reported, he called on the National Security Council to look into finding a way for the girls to be given travel permissions. According to Dina Powell, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, “The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately.” The girls will now be allowed to enter the country and stay for 10 days under what’s known as the “parole” system, a measure used in extreme circumstances.
“We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists,” Powell told Politico. “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.”
Indeed, the girls were thrilled about the news of the reversal. According to The Associated Press, on Thursday the all-girl team had once again made the trek from their hometown in Herat to Kabul where they visited the U.S. embassy to pick up their paperwork. After that, they piled in a cab and headed for the airport.
Lida Azizi, a 15-year-old team member, was thrilled at the adventure that is now before her. “I am very happy. This is such an important trip for us,” she told the AP.
The FIRST Global Challenge is taking place July 16-18 in Washington, D.C.
Read the full story at Politico.