Over the past couple of years, as more Afghans have joined an exodus intensified by the country’s insecurity and economic uncertainty, obtaining visas has become much more difficult because of concerns that visitors would seek asylum. Many young Afghans, particularly those on student and visit visas, also cross the border to Canada, knowing that the asylum process is much easier there than in the United States.
Mr. Sestak said that he did not know why the Afghan team’s visa applications were not approved, but that he suspected it stemmed from a backlog of requests or cautious officials concerned that they might overstay their visas.
Either way, he said, “I think they were given a fair opportunity.” He had previously told the leaders and mentors of the 165 teams participating that he did not believe the denials were influenced by “prejudice or politics.”
In the end, the girls were granted entry through “parole,” a process by which United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may temporarily authorize otherwise ineligible visitors on humanitarian grounds or because it benefits the public. Parole was requested because it would serve “in furtherance of U.S. foreign policy interests,” a spokesman said.
A senior administration official told The Associated Press that the status was granted after Mr. Trump intervened during the Group of 20 summit in Germany last week by asking Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to consider ways to allow them into the country.
First Global was founded by Dean Kamen, the prolific inventor behind the Segway, to promote the value of education in science, technology, engineering and math. Next week’s competition, the inaugural First Global Challenge, was created to advance that goal.
The teams will compete over several days in a game designed to showcase the role technology can play in water purification, a problem in many of the participating countries. Robots will compete to collect clean and contaminated water “particles” represented by differently colored balls, and cooperation among the teams will also be rewarded throughout the competition, Mr. Sestak said.
The event, which begins on Sunday night and ends on Tuesday, will be streamed live online.
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