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Trump Steps In to Ensure Afghan Students Can Come to US Robotics Contest

  • Ken Schwartz

The Afghan robotics girls team will be allowed to visit the United States for a competition after President Trump got involved. Team members work on their robots in Herat province, Afghanistan, July 4, 2017.

President Donald Trump has personally intervened to allow a team of Afghan women students into the United States for a major global robotics competition, VOA has learned.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul had denied visas for the girls earlier this month, for unknown reasons.

However, VOA's White House bureau chief, Steve Herman, reported Wednesday that Trump granted the girls what is known as a parole — reversing the earlier decision to bar them from the U.S. — that will allow them to come to Washington for 20 days.

A student team from Gambia also was granted visas last week after initially being rejected.

Former lawmaker behind contest

The president of FIRST Global, which organized the robotics competition, is former Democratic congressman and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Joe Sestak.

FILE - In this March 28, 2015 photo, Joe Sestak, a candidate seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the US Senate, passes a sign for the border between Pennsylvania and Ohio as he completes his "Walking In Other Pennsylvanian's Shoes," a walking tour across the state.
FILE - In this March 28, 2015 photo, Joe Sestak, a candidate seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the US Senate, passes a sign for the border between Pennsylvania and Ohio as he completes his "Walking In Other Pennsylvanian's Shoes," a walking tour across the state.

“I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations to bring people together in pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences,” Sestak said.

He thanked the White House and the State Department for clearing the obstacles to the Afghan and Gambian students' travel to the U.S. Teams from all 157 countries that have entered the competition now will be taking part, he added.

Event is held yearly

The three-day robotics competition begins Sunday in Washington.

FIRST Global Challenge holds the yearly contest to build up interest in science, technology, engineering and math across the world.

The group says the focus of the competition is finding solutions to problems in such fields as water, energy, medicine and food production.

Steve Herman contributed to this report

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