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

IRAP’s work has helped to resettle over 4,100 refugees and their families to 18 different countries.

IRAP played a key advocacy role in enacting nine pieces of Congressional legislation that created life-saving visas and legal protections for nearly 160,000 displaced people.

IRAP successfully litigated against executive orders restricting refugee resettlement, resulting in court victories that allowed more than 21,000 refugees to enter the United States who would have otherwise been banned and winning a court ruling in December 2017 that overturned the refugee ban.

  • "We did promise these people something in exchange for their help and we're not doing it," Adam Bates, IRAP’s Polic… https://t.co/B6Pd2LlKRS
  • RT @macfound: Human rights lawyer & #MacFellow Becca Heller of @RefugeeAssist mobilizes law schools & law firms to defend the rights of ref…
  • RT @ACLU: The Trump administration is trying to unilaterally reverse our country's legal and moral commitment to protect people who are fle…
  • IRAP opposes the Administration’s latest, shameful attack on the US asylum process that would effectively shut out… https://t.co/4U0q7IZJ9h
  • RT @YAMAMerchants: 1/3 Siham Hussain, an American citizen, contacted #YAMAadvocate in Jan' 2019. She was 8 months pregnant at the time, vis…
  • “The more diverse our community is, the more enticing we are for big corporations. And it’s really been shown stati… https://t.co/M23x3j9lbp
  • A group of Syrian refugees in Tampa are combining their cooking skills to create a catering business and become fin… https://t.co/HNcbyV9UiS
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: Mariam served for four years as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in Baghdad. Targeted by militias because of her service, and…
  • Rohingya women are being elected to leadership positions within refugee camps. At one camp in Bangladesh, refugee f… https://t.co/SrtoKyOFxs
  • The Trump Administration has drastically reduced the number of refugees the U.S. accepts each year. WBEZ Chicago ex… https://t.co/ktFfbgXHbN
  • RT @RCUSA_DC:
  • A young Syrian refugee shares stories about life in Syria and talks about her studies while cooking one of her favo… https://t.co/y2jkTYKRpb
  • RT @YaleLJournal: We're excited to announce our 3rd annual Student Essay Competition. We invite law students & recent graduates to submit s…
  • “The refugee resettlement program that saved my life and countless others has been cut by 75% during the last two y… https://t.co/de4Sw0XDAD
  • “I was told my travel has been suspended. I could not travel because of Trump's ban. I felt devastated.” Somali ref… https://t.co/WgfHBH7JVf
  • LAST CHANCE to win a trip to NYC to meet John Oliver on the Last Week Tonight set and appear on an episode as an ov… https://t.co/bmTMib4Bwx
  • PRESS RELEASE: IRAP and @RAICESTEXAS filed a lawsuit challenging new rules imposed by the Trump Administration that… https://t.co/3KQSQGuDn7
  • RT @JB_Cox: We at @RefugeeAssist filed a new lawsuit with @RAICESTEXAS, challenging the Administration's unlawful attempt to make it harder…
  • “In reading about the issue and watching the news on TV, I absolutely knew that I had to use my skills and resource… https://t.co/Ex64wrtIUs
  • RT @theIRC: Human beings above all. Families escaping gang violence and persecution in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have undertaken…