Trump Signs Anti-Trafficking Order as Victims’ Groups Boycott

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday aimed at combating human trafficking, even as some victim-advocacy groups criticized the president’s record on the issue and declined to attend a White House ceremony.

Trump touted his record on human trafficking at the event, where he announced he was creating a new position on his Domestic Policy Council to coordinate efforts on the problem.

“My administration is 100% committed to eradicating human trafficking from the Earth,” Trump said at the Friday’s ceremony.

Trump has drawn criticism for his hard-line stance on immigration, including measures that may affect human trafficking victims. Some stakeholders declined to attend the ceremony, including Freedom Network USA, a national coalition of anti-trafficking groups.

“Today’s event is a disingenuous claim to be dedicated to addressing the needs of survivors by an administration that has acted to the opposite of the interests of survivors,” said Jean Bruggeman, Freedom Network’s executive director. “We don’t want pretty events and promises of funding; we want policies that work.”

T Visas

Trump’s administration has tightened access to the T visa, a special permit for victims of human trafficking to stay in the U.S. Wait times are longer, denials have risen, and rules have been changed so that a person denied a T visa can be called before an immigration judge, a move that could lead to deportation.

Trump’s order doesn’t include changes to T visa rules, said an administration official who spoke to reporters about the measure on condition of anonymity.

The White House said there were more than 150 stakeholders at the event, which was pegged to the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a measure that ushered in the T visa.

Another group, the Polaris Project, said it declined to attend to avoid being “misconstrued as taking a political side.” In a statement, the group said it remained committed to working with “everyone in a position to make change understand how certain immigration and refugee policies and rhetoric contribute to sex and labor trafficking, and make it less likely that victims and survivors feel safe seeking help.”

Trump credited his daughter Ivanka Trump with leading the White House efforts on human trafficking.

As part of the order, the government will also create a website of resources for trafficking victims, law enforcement agencies and nonprofits, Trump said. The government will also establish better estimates about the number of trafficking victims and look for ways to expand long-term housing options for victims, a second administration official said.

Bruggeman said she supports the idea of the new position in the DPC and welcomes as much help as possible in fighting trafficking.

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