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.

  • Now is the time for state and local elected leaders to take a stand and urge the President to #Welcome95K refugees… https://t.co/1nPDXKyzva
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: Today, 172 organizations sent a joint letter to members of the Trump Administration, urging them to set the PD to 95k for FY2…
  • "It’s not every day that fans at a music festival go wild for a poet, but Hungary’s Sziget Festival cheered on Mond… https://t.co/vH1sc5jLdZ
  • A refugee-run catering company in New York City trains resettled refugees from all over the world to be professiona… https://t.co/G0mxWPQsE1
  • RT @theIRC: Maissa is an 8 year old Syrian refugee who loves to draw. 🎨 Over eight years of war in Syria has devastated the entire country…
  • Refugee children in Georgia were surprised by representatives and trophies from English Premier League champions Ma… https://t.co/FNX77FGQhq
  • “We need to think of refugees as people who have a lot of potential. We should give them the opportunities to help… https://t.co/SC8mZsjtF4
  • RT @MeAndVan: WE FOUND HIM!! A thread 👇👇 After 3000 RTs, 3 news articles, 1 video and thousands of wonderful messages from around the wor…
  • A woman reunited with the family of a man who generously bought her a bike when she was a refugee in the 90s by pos… https://t.co/FFgv3gN2P1
  • RT @theIRC: A reminder at this critical time. Let’s keep the US a safe haven for refugees who are fleeing war and persecution. These are t…
  • Part of the world's largest refugee camp was recreated in a British shopping center in an attempt to give shoppers… https://t.co/d4gcqppMqc
  • RT @theIRC: “I want to be the person who helps people find their dreams, talents and skills and bring peace to their communities. Not with…
  • The huge drop in refugee admissions is causing resettlement offices across the country to shut down, destroying vit… https://t.co/gg1MUziCC0
  • "The only difference between a refugee and someone who grew up in the Western world is that we were forced out of o… https://t.co/vlWYhMNgXp
  • Encourage your elected leaders to support refugees in your community! Contact your representatives to urge them to… https://t.co/DKfDju79HW
  • “We estimate that if only 6,000 [refugees] started a business here, the British government would save as much as ha… https://t.co/grOAleST1L
  • RT @RefugePt: “They’re very courageous people, they’ve very resilient, very tenacious. Those are people that add to our society.” Over the…
  • A Thai folk band who was forced into hiding in Laos because of their activism in Thailand arrived in Paris with asy… https://t.co/mex3Y8pcdo
  • Philadelphia officials urge support for refugees amid reports of impending ‘ban’. https://t.co/qvVXL92VJb via @whyy
  • RT @_AustinLandis: 1 / Mansoor Ahmad Mansoor worked for U.S. forces in Afghanistan for nine years—translating, giving cultural advice, advi…