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Afghan girls robotics team arrives in US following Trump’s visa intervention

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(WASHINGTON) — The all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan that was twice denied visas to enter the U.S. for a competition, but were then given the go-ahead earlier this week after President Trump intervened, arrived shortly after midnight on Saturday at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C.

The young women are in the U.S. for the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge, in which teams of young women and men from around the world showcase robots they created. The three-day competition kicks off Sunday at Washington’s DAR Constitution Hall.

The team arrived at Dulles to a crowd of supporters, as well as the U.S. State Department’s acting assistant secretary for south and central Asian affairs, Alice Wells; and Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Hamdullah Mohib.

“The plane just landed,” Mohib tweeted at 12:13 a.m. “The girls will be out soon to begin their journey through D.C. in a few minutes.”

The plane just landed. The girls will be out soon to begin their journey through D.C. in a few minutes. https://t.co/0cO6xuT8pP

— Hamdullah Mohib (@hmohib) July 15, 2017

The Afghan embassy also tweeted photos of the team’s supporters awaiting their arrival at Dulles.

The crowd is waiting to welcome the Afghan Robotic Team! #FGC2017 pic.twitter.com/QVUw8codwA

— Afghan Embassy DC (@Embassy_of_AFG) July 15, 2017

Amb @hmohib is waiting w/South and Central Asian Affairs acting Assistant Secretary, Amb Alice Wells, for our #FGC2017 team @Dulles_Airport pic.twitter.com/ninvSJPwcr

— Afghan Embassy DC (@Embassy_of_AFG) July 15, 2017

An Afghan angel waiting all night for her #FGC2017 team to arrive, dreaming of competing with them next year! pic.twitter.com/X3eiXR4fZy

— Afghan Embassy DC (@Embassy_of_AFG) July 15, 2017

The six girls from western Afghanistan’s Herat region had twice been denied visas to enter the country by the U.S. State Department, although the reason was never publicly disclosed. Still, many critics pointed to Trump’s travel ban executive order and his administration’s policies, which some perceive as hostile to some foreigners, for the girls’ denial of entry.

On Wednesday, a senior administration official told ABC News that President Trump had intervened on the girls’ behalf to allow them to compete.

“The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately,” Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement following the president’s intervention. “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.”

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