The Jury Talks Back

7/13/2017

President Trump Helps Afghan Girls Gain Entry To U.S. For Robotics Competition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 1:10 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Credit where credit is due: President Trump has intervened on behalf of a group of Afghan girls who had hoped to come to the U.S. to participate in a robotics competition. Originally,the girls were twice denied visas by the State Department:

They seized the chance to study in a country that has long denied that advantage to many girls. They excelled in science and technology – a male-dominated field. And they competed successfully to represent their country against some of the brightest young minds in the world.

But, after overcoming these improbable odds, a robotics team of six Afghan girls found a hurdle they couldn’t clear: the United States government, which denied them visas to attend the robotics competition in Washington, DC.

The robot they built is being shipped to the US, but the girls will participate via Skype. Almost all other teams were allowed in, including those from countries barred under the US travel ban, such as Iran and Sudan.

It is unclear why they were denied visas. Afghanistan is not one of the countries targeted by President Trump’s travel ban. Perhaps it was due to concerns that if granted visas, they would not comply with visa laws and overstay, or maybe a backlog of applications led to the denials, or perhaps there was concern that they would end up seeking asylum:

Over the past couple years, as more Afghans have joined an exodus intensified by the country’s insecurity and economic uncertainty, obtaining visas has become much more difficult out of fear that visitors would become asylum seekers. Many young Afghans, particularly on student and visit visas, also often cross the border to Canada, knowing that the asylum process is much easier there than in the United States.

Upon hearing of the girls’ plight, President Trump personally stepped in to find a way to allow the team to enter the U.S.:

The president became aware of the case and asked officials at the National Security Council to see what they could do. After those officials talked to counterparts at various agencies, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to allow the girls in on a system known as “parole,” which will allow them to stay in the United States for 10 days, though technically not on visas. The parole authority is used in exceptional circumstances, senior administration officials told POLITICO.

In this case, it was determined there was a significant public benefit to letting the girls in, the officials said.

The girls, now granted entry, will participate in the competition beginning this weekend. What a wonderful opportunity for them, especially given the number of hurdles they had to overcome to get to this point in their journey:

The girls, who are from western Afghanistan’s Herat area, reportedly leaped over multiple obstacles to build a ball-sorting robot for the FIRST Global Challenge, which is set for July 16-18 in Washington, D.C.

Equipment sent to them got stuck in customs, so they improvised and used household items instead. To apply for their visas at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, they traveled hundreds of miles — twice — to Kabul, the Afghan capital, despite facing potential dangers on the road.

To see these intrepid young women coming to the U.S. to participate in a robotics competition speaks volumes, especially as one bears in mind that not that long ago, when under Taliban rule, only a mere 3% of Afghan girls were able to receive some sort of education.

–Dana

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