The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) provides legal representation to Iraqi refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as to refugees of other nationalities. IRAP is a student-driven organization that matches law students with pro bono supervising attorneys to take on individual cases. Together they help refugee applicants successfully navigate the rules and processes for resettlement in a safe third country. IRAP is a national organization with chapters at various law schools, including NYU. More information on IRAP National can be found here.
IRAP NYU has two main avenues for students to get involved: the Student Advocacy program and the Policy program. Additionally, a group of IRAP NYU students typically take a trip to Jordan every year during spring break.
IRAP's Student Advocacy program matches teams of 2-3 law students with supervising attorneys who have volunteered to work pro bono. Together, the student advocates and supervising attorneys take on the case of a refugee or refugee family seeking resettlement in the United States. Most refugees or refugee families are Iraqi and are currently located in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq. Some refugees are applying for resettlement for the first time and others are appealing their rejection. Students -- with the support of the supervising attorneys, IRAP-NYU Case Managers, and regular training sessions -- handle the case from start to finish. As a result, IRAP provides students a unique opportunity to gain real legal and client experience within a supportive framework. Typical work includes:
- Preparing client interview questions and interviewing clients
- Submitting a Freedom of Information Act request
- Drafting affidavits
- Crafting case strategy
- Gathering supporting evidence
- Conducting legal research
- Drafting the application or appeal brief.
Student Advocates make a commitment to an individual – and, oftentimes a family – living in volatile and challenging circumstances. IRAP advocates are often a refugee's last hope for resettlement in the United States and the U.S. government often takes months (if not years) to process resettlement requests. As a result, IRAP asks each student advocate to commit to her client until the case is closed or until she graduates from law school, whichever occurs first. (Students are, of course, welcome to continue working on their cases after graduation.)
Students in the IRAP Policy program work to advance refugee rights by influencing legislation and policy. Policy Associates work directly with IRAP National on short- to medium-term projects of urgent importance. These targeted assignments will touch on legal research, media, and congressional lobbying, all of which are of increasing importance as immigration and refugee legislation is considered in Washington. Projects are likely to change throughout the year as the policy landscape changes, but IRAP Policy Associates will have a direct role in shaping the debate.
Members of IRAP's NYU chapter have the opportunity to travel to the Middle East during Spring Break to meet with clients and learn more about the refugee process. Past trips have included travel to Amman and Beirut. In Jordan, members attend trainings about the challenges faced by refugees, meet with refugee assistance organizations and conduct client meetings and interviews. At the end of the trip there are opportunities to travel to Petra and the Dead Sea. More details on this year's trip will be available as the year progresses.