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

 

  • Ethiopia allows almost 1 million refugees to leave camps and work https://t.co/f4uqrTsVam via @Reuters
  • "Why was someone — in danger because they worked for the US and who secured a visa after years of vetting — arreste… https://t.co/U01dvJAQ92
  • RT @RAICESTEXAS: ⚡️⚡️BREAKING ⚡️⚡️ Mohasif Motawakil, the Afghan interpreter, was just released by ICE. We just left the Houston airport…
  • RT @globeandmail: At 21, this aerospace engineering student, former refugee has created her first invention https://t.co/xSbMyLmbHn https:/…
  • This Syrian refugee did not know how to swim before being resettled to the UK. Now, he trains every day in hopes of… https://t.co/typWXh8sbC
  • Syrian refugees in Lebanon continue to suffer extreme winter. https://t.co/JNSRaYXJ0r via @MiddleEastMnt
  • RT @marikoinNY: Outrageous for CBP to detain people who worked for the US govt and who received a US visa from State Dept to escape danger…
  • Despite the fact that 38% of Syrian refugees in the UK have a university education, the vast majority are strugglin… https://t.co/60GrIb3GHb
  • RT @IRISCT: Congrats, Joseph, for becoming a U.S. citizen! Joseph was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. as a refugee from Kenya in 2013…
  • RT @TheDailyShow: .@Malala explains the importance of treating refugees with empathy. Full piece: https://t.co/LPDbHVd9Dq https://t.co/fBe…
  • Bury Me, My Love is a video game that tells the story of a Syrian refugee trying to reach safety through her cell p… https://t.co/HdT6NeZc0M
  • The case of Mohammad Motawakil, an Afghan SIV recipient who was detained on his arrival to the US with his family,… https://t.co/5RGXj1UG2L
  • RT @NRC_Egeland: Canada again showing leadership: will welcome more than 1 million new immigrants, including refugees, in the next three ye…
  • “Surely the U.S. government can resolve a trivial issue with an opened envelope to protect someone who faces persec… https://t.co/r9414nKKHu
  • He should receive access to Counsel immediately. #SaveourAllies https://t.co/8l3HDI1OCR
  • As a new Congress takes over, remind your representatives of these 5 facts about refugees! #RefugeesWelcome https://t.co/NmrHSYebIb
  • RT @humanrights1st: MUST-WATCH: An uplifting story of friendship between a veteran and a refugee, and the new law in Colorado that resulted…
  • Becca Heller, IRAP’s Executive Director, was featured on the latest episode of Alec Baldwin’s @heresthething podcas… https://t.co/Yi8vaQFaVA
  • RT @ABFalecbaldwin: A riveting @heresthething this week. Before the #MuslimBan, my guest Becca Heller of @RefugeeAssist prepared. When it h…
  • RT @marikoinNY: Govt still shut down, but we keep going. Govt stay motion was DENIED in Doe v. Nielsen (Lautenberg case) because our Irania…