The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal rights for refugees and displaced persons. Mobilizing direct legal aid, litigation, and systemic advocacy, IRAP serves the world's most persecuted individuals and empowers the next generation of human rights leaders.
Since its founding in 2008, IRAP has helped resettle over 4200 refugees and their families to 18 different countries and has trained over 2000 law students and lawyers in the process. NYU is one of IRAP's 30 student chapters across the United States and Canada.
Contact Co-Chairs Yulanda Lui (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michael Leonetti (email@example.com) for more information.
Please see below for descriptions of our chapter's work for the coming year. In addition to the teams below, members of NYU IRAP can also opt-in to joining the End the Contract Coalition, a group of IRAP chapters, NLG chapters, and other student groups across the country organizing against the ICE contract with LexisNexis and WestLaw.
Student Casework Team
NYU IRAP's student casework program matches teams of 1-3 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. Our clients are Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants. 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.)
Student volunteers can also participate in the Projects Team. Students have the opportunity to assist with a variety of different client-facing and research-based projects. Ideas for projects come from both students and IRAP National. Examples of projects include immigration court monitoring and holding one-day clinics. For the 2021-22 year, the Projects Team will be working on the following:
Students in the Climate Research project (fall semester only) will research recent case law related to climate displacement and “particular social groups” (PSG) in the refugee definition. The team will have an intro call with IRAP’s Climate Displacement Project Strategist to discuss the research questions and work product, but broadly speaking students will research how gender has and has not been classified as a PSG and what the implications are for an argument for climate as a PSG
The Court Monitoring project (full year) will consist of monitoring and tracking immigration court hearings at New York’s Varick Street Immigration Court, and then compiling a report on a related research question. We plan on partnering with one or more of the NYIFUP organizations - Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, and Brooklyn Defender Services - to gain access and insight for this project.
The Policy Team advocates for changes to the laws governing refugee and immigration issues.
Students in the Comment Writing project (fall semester only) will draft comments for one or two regulatory proposals by the Biden administration. The administration is currently preparing two immigration regulations: one that will clarify federal asylum law and make it much harder for future anti-immigrant administrations to abuse the system; and one that will make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent. Once these regulations are completed, they will enter a notice and comment process, in which anyone across the country can offer feedback that the Department of Homeland Security is required to read and consider. NYU IRAP’s comment(s) will support the Biden administration in broadening asylum eligibility and protecting DREAMers, and encourage it to go farther toward systemic change.
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) trip
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. NOTE: the current status of this trip is currently in flux due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The 'trip' may be virtual.
2021-22 NYU IRAP Board
Co-Directors: Yulanda Lui (firstname.lastname@example.org), Michael Leonetti (email@example.com)
Projects Chair: Kiri Van Lengen-Welty (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Outreach Co-Chairs: Nathaniel Brodsky (email@example.com), Daniela Czemerinski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
IRAPSA Representative: Marisa O'Toole (email@example.com)