The decision to deny visas for the team of six teenage girls sparked criticism from human rights groups, which accused United States officials of abandoning efforts to support the empowerment of Afghan women, and raised concerns over the White House's visa policy for Muslim-majority countries.
An official told The Hill the president looked at the case in terms of the administration's Afghanistan policy review and women's entrepreneurship initiative, and that the White House believes the State Department and the White House followed the right procedures. "They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country". Nevertheless, teams from Syria, Sudan and Iran - countries on the banned list - were allowed to attend.
"We are very happy to have these young girls be able to come here to the United States to participate in this robotics competition", Nauert said.
The girls' applications for US visas had been denied twice, but the White House says President Donald Trump intervened and they will be allowed to enter USA and participate in the competition under a so-called parole status.
The National Security Council opted to "parole" the girls, a status the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services explains requires "an urgent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit".
The U.S. State Department had told the Associated Press that it would not comment on why their visas had been denied, but that that "all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law".
Military Plane Crash Investigation Continues
James said all the families had been notified but the names of the victims would not be released for a few days. Accidents involving U.S. military aircraft are not uncommon, but rarely do they claim so many lives.
The girls are expected to leave Afghanistan on Friday for Washington where the FIRST Global, an worldwide robotics challenge, will be held next week.
The three-day robotics competition begins Sunday in Washington. It is an "Olympics"-style competition in which one team from every nation is invited to participate".
The decision gains importance in the wake of President Trump's ban on Muslims from entering the country.
First Global, a not-for-profit charity, holds the annual worldwide robotics challenge in hopes of sparking a passion for science and technology among high school students around the world.
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