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Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician running for Congress in Arizona.

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the 2020 campaign, forcing candidates to cancel rallies, creating organizing challenges, and even calling into question how voters can safely cast ballots in November.

But as political operatives grapple with how to run a campaign in the middle of a public health crisis, a number of Democratic members of Congress and candidates are putting their campaigns to work for good — raising money for local food banks, collecting essential items for front-line health care workers, and distributing critical information to help their constituents stay informed.

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Anti-human trafficking groups are boycotting an event on the issue this week that is being hosted by Ivanka Trump, citing the Trump administration’s harsh policies against immigrants, who are often the victims of trafficking.

Along with Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump plans to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Martina Vandenberg, founder of the Human Trafficking Legal Center, told the Washington Post that the event has created “a chasm between rhetoric and reality” and noted that “this administration is undermining protections carefully built for trafficking victims over two decades.”

“I don’t think any of us have the desire to be a part of a photo op,” Vandenberg added.

Polaris, the organization that runs the national human trafficking hotline, along with the largest anti-trafficking coalition, Freedom Network USA, will not attend the event. At least eight groups have turned down invitations so far.

According to the Post, the groups argue that “although the president frequently invokes human trafficking, his administration is actively endangering a significant portion of trafficking victims: immigrants.”

Among the groups’ biggest concerns is the Trump administration’s decision to cut back on “T” visas as part of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration initiatives. Those visas have often been used to allow immigrant victims of trafficking to have temporary legal status while cases against their traffickers are built.

“It’s going to be very difficult to access those witnesses who can tell you about serious crimes or trafficking,” Jacinta Ma of the conservative National Immigration Forum told Bloomberg last year of the visa crackdown.

In 2019, only 500 such visas were granted, the lowest since 2010.

Donald Trump has often invoked lurid, unverified stories of people being bound up and brought across the border to justify spending billions on a southern wall between the United States and Mexico. As the New York Times noted in February last year, while there have been isolated instances of this, Trump’s claims are mostly exaggerated.

While she has spoken and written about the problem of human trafficking on multiple occasions, Ivanka Trump has tried to distance herself from her father’s anti-immigrant stances while serving in his White House.

Asked about the policy of separating children from their families, she told CBS in December the issue is “not part of my portfolio.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.