Brent Finnell and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) - Charlotte School of Law Chapter
Individual Legal Representation for Refugees
IRAP is the first organization to provide comprehensive legal representation to individual refugees seeking resettlement. IRAP has successfully resettled more than 1000 refugees in life or death situations, including Iraqis at risk for their work as interpreters with the U.S. military, children with medical emergencies, women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence and survivors of torture. IRAP is currently working on the cases of more than 300 families.
IRAP has chapters at 23 law schools in the U.S. and the Middle East. Chapters are student-initiated and directed. Law students work in pairs, under the supervision of pro bono attorneys from private firms. They prepare visa applications, submit appeals, and advocate and empower our clients to successfully negotiate the resettlement process. Until September 2010, IRAP was entirely run by volunteer law student directors. Now with a full team dedicated to IRAP in addition to our extensive network of volunteers, we hope to expand the number of cases we can tackle and to more aggressively advocate for the rights of Iraqi refugees.
Fact-Finding and Policy Advocacy
Because IRAP handles so many individual cases, our law students and lawyers have a unique insight into refugee processing. We utilize the knowledge gained from our individual cases to advocate for specific legal reforms to systems of refugee and Special Immigrant Visa processing in the United States. Students from different chapters also take on specific fact-finding projects, traveling to the Middle East and doing research in the US, including:
--Protection for Iraqi and Afghan allies who risked their lives working as interpreters for the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan.
--Special categories and protection for vulnerable groups of refugees, including LGBT refugees and women at risk of domestic violence or sexual trafficking.
--Improvements to the refugee resettlement process, including allow refugees access to counsel and ensuring transparent appeals, to ensure that every refugee has is treated fairly and humanely, with respect for their basic human rights.
Refugee Roadmap assists Iraqi refugees in the United States by answering their questions about life in America and highlighting their accomplishments so that other refugees can benefit from their experience. The project is sustained by volunteers from different countries and different faiths. Volunteers include students, retirees, professionals, Iraq war veterans and previously resettled refugees. They share the experience of living in the US and a desire to help newly arrived Iraqi refugees. Volunteers answer questions and participate in a team effort to provide Iraqi refugees with a roadmap for navigating life in America.
Overseas Clinical Legal Education to Ensure Refugee Rights
IRAP partners with the University of Jordan in Amman on the first clinical legal education program in the Kingdom of Jordan. IRAP students from Yale Law School travel to Jordan twice a year to conduct trainings with Jordanian law students. Law students from both countries then work together to coordinate comprehensive legal advocacy on behalf of IRAP clients.
I would also like to thank my Co-Director Desiree Chihade, and all of the other law students, professors, and friends who have helped support the Charlotte School of Law Chapter.