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Ivanka Welcomes Robotics Team From Afghanistan

Image: Ivanka Welcomes Robotics Team From Afghanistan

In this photograph taken on July 2, 2017, teenagers from the Afghanistan Robotic House, a private training institute, work on a robot at the Better Idea Organization center in Herat. (Hoshang Hashimi/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 13 Jul 2017 08:58 AM

Ivanka Trump welcomed an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan on Twitter after the squad's visas were first denied to enter the country and then approved.

A Homeland Security Department spokesman told The Washington Post this week that it had approved a request from the U.S. State Department for the six Afghan girls on the robotics team and their chaperone to enter the country and attend the competition.

The girls will compete with teams from nearly 160 other nations in the FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition taking place in Washington, D.C., next week.

Ivanka Trump issued her welcome via Twitter Wednesday.

The initial visa denial for the Afghan team was met with complaints from human rights organizations and questions about if the U.S. was walking away from previous efforts advocating for educational opportunities for young women in Afghanistan, wrote the Post.

Politico reported that President Donald Trump prompted U.S. officials to reverse course and allow the Afghan team to participate in the international competition.

"The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately," Dina Powell, Trump's deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement, per Politico.

"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," Powell continued.

The visa denial was not the first hurdle the girls from western Afghanistan's Herat area had to face from the July 16-18 competition, wrote Politico. The equipment sent to them got stuck in customs and they had to improvise and used household items instead, noted the publication.

FIRST Global president, former U.S. Navy Admiral and Congressman Joe Sestak said in a statement that he was pleased that the team will be allowed to participate.

"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," Sestak said in the statement. "That is why I am most grateful to the U.S. government and its State Department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this international competition this year."

Afghanistan is not one of the six countries Trump has tried to target in his legally contested travel ban. The Washington Post said it was not clear why the team was denied initially.

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Ivanka Trump welcomed an all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan on Twitter after the squad's visas were first denied to enter the country and then approved.
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Thursday, 13 Jul 2017 08:58 AM
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