U.S. Denies Afghan Girls Robotics Team—As It Pledges Millions to Empower Women Abroad
Remember the group of Afghan girls who were denied visas to come to the U.S. to participate in an international robotics competition? Their plight made headlines late last month when it was revealed that the State Department had denied their request.
Now comes news that the girls applied again—and were again denied. The State Department has refused to discuss the situation, saying it cannot comment on individual cases. Its rationale is difficult to grok; Afghanistan is not included in President Trump’s travel ban, yet Syria, Iran, and Sudan are—and their teams were granted visas. One theory floated by the Washington Post suggests that U.S. officials may suspect that the girls will “vanish into immigrant communities instead of returning home.”
While that’s not an unfounded concern, the girls appear to have done what they could to prove their intent to return home after the competition, which runs July 16-18 in Washington D.C. “Each of us gave them written guarantees from two government employees vouching for our return,” 16-year-old Rodaba Noori told the Post. “This is our country. We have our life and family here.”
With the latest denial, it looks like the team will have to watch their ball-sorting robot do its thing via Skype. At a time when the U.S. is making a lot of noise about supporting women’s economic development abroad—see President Trump’s recent announcement that the U.S. will donate $50 million to the new women’s entrepreneurship fund championed by his daughter—the government’s decision is more than disappointing; it’s hypocritical.
This essay originally appeared in the July 11, 2017 edition of the Broadsheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter about the world’s most powerful women. Sign up here.