Anti-Trafficking Groups To Boycott Ivanka Trump’s White House Summit
First daughter Ivanka Trump will host an anti-trafficking summit at the White House on Friday, an event her father plans to attend, but several of the country’s most prominent anti-human-trafficking groups and advocates have decided not to attend, according to The Washington Post.
The organizations boycotting the summit include “Polaris, the nonprofit organization that runs the national human-trafficking hotline, and the leader of Freedom Network USA, the country’s largest anti-trafficking coalition.”
Their decisions came after months of agonizing over what to do, The Post noted, and were largely determined by one factor: the Trump administration’s hostility toward immigrants.
“We have such a chasm between rhetoric and reality,” Martina Vandenberg, the founder of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, told the newspaper. “This administration is undermining protections carefully built for trafficking victims over two decades.”
One of the most alarming issues raised by advocates is that of T visas, “which provide temporary legal status for immigrants who can prove they were trafficked while in the United States.” Under President Donald Trump, T visas are receiving more scrutiny — as is immigration in general.
Vandenberg said that advocates do not want to be “part of a photo op.”
Joining Ivanka and her father will be Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General William Barr, The Post reported. Ivanka has taken on human-trafficking as one of her pet projects since entering the White House and just this month visited two residential facilities for human-trafficking victims in Atlanta, Georgia.
The president himself has talked about the issue numerous times and “became the first sitting president to attend a meeting of the federal trafficking task force since its creation in 2000.”
But many advocates see a major discrepancy between both Trump and the administration’s rhetoric and their policy proposals.
“Dealing with an issue such as trafficking should always rise above partisan politics and tap into the best of all people as we work together to end this tragic reality,” said Bruce Deel, founder of House of Cherith — one of the facilities Ivanka visited this month. Deel plans to attend the summit on Friday.
But others argue that partisan politics are already at work in the Trump administration’s approach to human-trafficking.
“The Trafficking Victims Protection Act also established the visa for immigrants who were forced, defrauded or coerced into prostitution (sex trafficked) or physical work (labor trafficked),” The Post reported. “In 2016, the processing time for a T visa application took an average of 7.9 months. Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates applicants must wait 19½ to 26½ months to find out whether they will receive their visa.”
Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman, a “trafficking survivor who helps victims in Washington state apply for the visa,” said his program currently has 130 people from 35 countries waiting to find out if they will receive a T visa.
“During that time, they are unable to work and unable to get medical care,” he told The Post. “We are talking about years where people are just stuck.”
It also has become more risky to apply for the T visa, as “in 2018, USCIS announced that applicants who were denied T visas could be summoned to immigration court to begin deportation proceedings.”
The result? Trafficking victims have become even more anxious about coming forward.
“Each change in isolation is problematic, but not destructive,” Jean Bruggeman, the executive director of Freedom Network USA, told the publication. “It’s when you take them all together that these individual policy shifts add up to a disregard or worse toward immigrant survivors.”