Model & Strategy

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid and systemic policy advocacy, IRAP simultaneously serves the world’s most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders. IRAP is the first and only organization to provide refugees with attorneys throughout every step of the registration, protection, and resettlement process, moving the needle on what it means to effectively help refugees fleeing persecution.

IRAP is on the front lines of the fight against the current administration’s discriminatory executive orders that are intended to deny safe haven and freedom to thousands of vulnerable refugees. In the wake of the airport chaos following the January 27 executive order (during which we organized over 1,600 lawyers into a rapid response airport legal aid force), IRAP has had amazing success advocating for continued resettlement in the U.S. and abroad. IRAP won the first travel ban case and we are uniquely positioned to challenge efforts to block refugees from entering the United States. To date, IRAP has responded ad hoc to numerous incidents of refugees being detained at airports in the weeks since the executive order was first issued.

IRAP Logo
At a Glance
Founded: 2010
Social Justice
Location of work: International, Asia
International Refugee Assistance Project
40 Rector Street
9th Floor
New York, NY 10006
We believe in the power of individuals to change their own circumstances. And we believe in results.
Immigrant family sits on the floor in their living room smiling
Becca Heller headshot
Meet Becca Heller

Becca Heller’s interest in the legal challenges facing refugees began in 2008 while living in Israel during her Kirby Simon Fellowship from Yale Law School, when she traveled to Amman, Jordan to learn about the situation facing Iraqi refugees. While in Jordan, Becca met with Iraqi refugees suffering from persecution, discrimination, and intense poverty. Prior to attending law school, Becca had conducted AIDS and HIV-related malnutrition work in Sub-Saharan Africa and anticipated that the families she met would face similar socio-economic challenges — hunger, shelter, poverty, and lack of access to health care. While these were certainly present, what surprised her was that each family’s primary concern was tied to legal rights: they lived in fear while seeking resettlement to a safe third country, but the “system” that was set up to resettle them was opaque, impossible to navigate and deliberately withheld information from them.  They sought international protection and resettlement in order to save their lives, yet none understood how to navigate the legal processes involved and no legal aid was available.

After listening to their plight, Becca promised to see if there was anything she could do to help. when she attempted to inquire about their application, she was told that refugees had no right to due process. They could not ask questions about their application or determine its status. If it was rejected, they would not know why nor would they be able to appeal the decision. When she returned to Yale in the fall of 2008, Becca shared her experiences with four other students: one was a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; another was a Washington Post journalist who had reported from Baghdad and Fallujah; two others had worked on the ground with refugees in various countries. Together, they formed an extracurricular organization and set about leveraging the resources they had at hand — namely, law students and lawyers. They identified experienced attorneys willing to work pro bono as attorney of record on a refugee cases and paired them with law students who could provide the legwork and research needed to pursue individual cases. In a matter of months, IRAP was born. When Becca graduated in the spring of 2010, she became the organization’s Director and IRAP was formalized under the umbrella of the New York based Urban Justice Center.

IMPACT

29 law school chapters

75 firms established

55 counties served

150,100 lives changed

 

  • RT @RCUSA_DC: We can do better than this. In FY19 not a single slot should go unfilled. Our hearts our big enough, our arms are wide enough…
  • “I think this is the first time that someone working in the refugee sphere has received this award. So that really… https://t.co/ZX1Zkbsl7x
  • This year’s #IRAPStudentSummit2018 gathered nearly 150 law students from throughout the US and Canada to work towar… https://t.co/orDuJt4Dys
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: The Administration failed to protect 45,000 refugees in FY18. We will continue to track arrivals and hold the Admin accountab…
  • Refugee team to take part at Tokyo 2020 Olympics - IOC https://t.co/X42frobPbN via @reuters
  • "We were just trying to help as many people as we could." https://t.co/OlB52JnmKj
  • RT @LIRSorg: Despite the concerns and objections voiced by dozens of members of Congress, from faith and civic leaders, and by individual A…
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: Trump Has Cut Christian Refugees 64%, Muslim Refugees 93% #RefugeesWelcome https://t.co/HdgLutgdGT
  • "American communities from coast to coast have expressed an eagerness to welcome refugee families and help them reb… https://t.co/ojE7ZZy08t
  • RT @wardahkhalid_: Former US ambassador: "The Trump administration’s retreat in leadership and assault on the nation’s honorable tradition…
  • NY Human Rights Lawyer Who Fought Trump Travel Bans Picked for MacArthur Fellowship https://t.co/57VUwaN2Q7 via @NYLawJournal
  • The President has set the refugee admissions ceiling for FY19 at only 30,000 - the lowest in history. Here is our p… https://t.co/y8M7QZalyD
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: It is official. "With so many refugees in need of resettlement, not a single one of the 30,000 slots should go empty.” - Mar…
  • RT @Philanthropy: MacArthur ‘Genius’ Winners Include Nonprofit Leaders in Art, Science, and Advocacy https://t.co/BWbiNAwmAQ
  • "It's hard to get people to continue caring about refugees and forced migration. There's so much crazy news all the… https://t.co/OnWxlxNrek
  • RT @macfound: #MacFellow Becca Heller of @RefugeeAssist is mobilizing the resources of law schools and law firms to defend the rights of re…
  • “I’m hoping that this allows us to shine a spotlight ... on the issues facing refugees and immigrants,” Becca Helle… https://t.co/yJD1IDaA0w
  • Big news: Our Executive Director Becca Heller was just announced a 2018 #MacFellow! Huge congrats! And many thanks… https://t.co/i85KkW6Dlr
  • RT @CMSnewyork: NEW | In "FY 2019 Ceiling on US Refugee Resettlement: Bad Policy, Faulty Logic" Susan Martin of @Georgetown puts the #Trump