“We have such a chasm between rhetoric and reality,” one expert told The Washington Post

By Sean Neumann
January 29, 2020 05:10 PM
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The Trump administration plans a summit this week on its efforts to combat human trafficking — but, according to The Washington Post, “some of the country’s most prominent anti-trafficking organizations and advocates won’t be there” because they’re boycotting.

The summit, organized by senior White House aide Ivanka Trump, will reportedly be attended by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr and others.

At the same time that the White House is pointing to what officials say is this major push to support anti-trafficking work, including a call for tens of millions in new funding, some of the experts on the issue have taken exception with what they call the administration’s hypocrisy.

“We have such a chasm between rhetoric and reality,” Martina Vandenberg, the founder of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, a network of attorneys who take on trafficking cases, told the Post. “This administration is undermining protections carefully built for trafficking victims over two decades.”

The Post reports that those anti-human trafficking groups who plan to skip Friday’s summit cite concerns over the Trump administration’s handling of T visas, which give temporary legal status to immigrants who were trafficked once they entered the country.

In 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that those who apply for T visas and get denied could face immigration court and be deported, leaving immigrants who become human trafficking victims frightened to risk applying for the visa, experts told the Post.

“We hear time and time again: Why would I risk myself? Why would I risk my family?” said Deborah Pembrook, a trafficking survivor who helps T visa applicants in California.

What’s more, according to the Post, it’s taken longer and longer for T visa applications to be processed.

Ivanka Trump (right) listens as a survivor of human trafficking (foreground) shares her story in Atlanta in mid-January.
Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

The Post reports that at least eight organizations declined to attend Friday’s summit, hosted by President Trump’s eldest daughter and senior adviser.

Ivanka has been a face of the administration’s anti-human trafficking policy, writing a 2018 op-ed in the Post about the “bold action” to address the problem. (Like her husband, Jared Kushner, also a presidential aide, she has been dogged by scrutiny about her qualifications for policy work.)

Despite the boycott, there will reportedly still be anti-human trafficking groups attending Friday’s summit, which is scheduled for the 20th anniversary of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

“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,” advocate Bruce Deel told the Post.

Friday’s summit is expected to commemorate the TVPA act but also feature discussions about what else the federal government can do in fighting and preventing human trafficking crimes.

In a statement to the Post, Ivanka said: “I am honored to stand with the president as we convene federal, state, local and tribal leaders, alongside survivors, employers and advocates to ensure that we see the end of the crisis of human trafficking once and for all.”