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

 

  • Fashion icon Helena Christensen visits a Rwandan refugee camp and looks to break stereotypes about refugees. https://t.co/5jUgxsc5h3
  • RT @AJEnglish: The second #WithRefugees Winter Bazaar showcases the talents and skills of refugees from in and outside these camps in Jorda…
  • Three years after their arrival, the first Syrian refugees to resettle in Canada can apply for citizenship, but not… https://t.co/CPpHaMDiTE
  • “Without [incoming refugees], we go back to that rate of decline that Buffalo saw in the '80s and '90s.” Refugee re… https://t.co/JjXAkHIhaH
  • Our Policy and Communications teams are accepting applications for our 2019 summer internship! Apply here: https://t.co/Sf0FTODOv8
  • IRAP’s Linda Evarts was quoted by @VOANews about the rescission of conditional approvals for Central American minor… https://t.co/vSow93fqO6
  • RT @Debevoise: Debevoise & Plimpton’s Joshua Pickar shares how engaging in #ProBono immigration-related matters has shaped his career. Read…
  • IRAP’s Linda Evarts told the @AP that yesterday’s denial of the government’s motion to dismiss was an “important fi… https://t.co/ujj3LCPQge
  • RT @macfound: All December, we're featuring the 2018 class of MacArthur Fellows. #MacFellow Becca Heller of @RefugeeAssist is mobilizing t…
  • Read our press release on yesterday’s ruling in our lawsuit against the termination of the Central American Minors… https://t.co/aYhnKVwCds
  • False information about refugees is putting them in real danger in countries around the world. Read about how Syria… https://t.co/NRZ8nefzj3
  • RT @RCUSA_DC: Detroit medical experts say proposed public charge rule is already "forcing people to choose between the health of their fam…
  • Refugee artists in Lebanon are reimagining the meaning of their homeland in the face of displacement. Check out the… https://t.co/puxw6p084A
  • Read about Montana’s refugee mayor, who now holds office in its capital city of Helena after fleeing civil war in h… https://t.co/cxdHcopI70
  • The Administration’s proposed “public charge” rules are causing immigrants to be afraid to accept government assist… https://t.co/63ryF8UREG
  • Becca Heller, IRAP’s Executive Director, made the @jdforward 50 list for 2018! The list celebrates members of the A… https://t.co/jlDSFPmIf3
  • IRAP has joined an amicus brief in the case East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v Trump, which challenges the Administratio… https://t.co/bG8au2Ydbn
  • Check out this video by @natgeo about a young Syrian refugee, Nujeen, who finds the silver linings in her journey a… https://t.co/dCyDDG9GUl
  • IRAP’s @NUSL chapter published an article detailing the story of their client, Aymen, an Iraqi citizen who worked f… https://t.co/mwqKYYIj2U
  • Six refugee families that spent the last 20 years living in harmful conditions on a British army base in Cyprus hav… https://t.co/GHdHamCZnW