Systemic Advocacy

IRAP has a formidable track record of successful advocacy at the systemic level: our policy advocacy has helped enact into law federal legislation offering life-saving visas and legal protections to over 160,000 displaced people.

Our unique model utilizes lessons learned in individual casework to advocate for systemic changes that benefit broader refugee populations.

IRAP builds non-traditional, non-partisan coalitions including veterans, religious groups, and corporate attorneys, to advocate for the rights of refugees and displaced persons. We also play a major role in including refugees in U.S. immigration legislation, advocating for procedural protections for refugees, implementing trauma-sensitive policies for LGBTI individuals and refugees who are survivors of torture, and extending protections for Iraqi and Afghan wartime allies of the U.S. Government.

Read our “Recommendations for the President to Restore and Improve Protection for Refugees and Displaced People,” published September 1, 2019.

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Our Response to the Refugee Crisis

The world is facing a refugee crisis the likes of which we have not witnessed since World War II. Refugees around the world continue to be neglected, victimized, and denied the procedural safeguards that are the hallmarks of a just society.

IRAP is changing this.

IRAP is the first organization to provide comprehensive legal representation to refugees throughout the registration, protection, and resettlement processes. We swiftly identify systemic problems as they emerge and use those field-level insights to catalyze broader policy change. To address the growing crisis, IRAP is working to:

Advocate for strategic improvements to global refugee processing by:

  • Identifying, pursuing, and expanding legal pathways to safety for individuals seeking safe passage to Europe, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere, as traditional pathways to safety are rapidly dwindling in the wake of reduced funding and resettlement slots from the United States;
  • As part of that work, proposing and advocating for a private sponsorship program in the United States to facilitate the resettlement of additional refugees (see our two-pager on Private Sponsorship of Refugees in the United States);
  • Advocating for improved procedural protections to refugees in UN refugee status determinations, promoting the rights of our clients and millions of other refugees in collaboration with partner legal aid organizations;
  • Locating, screening, and assisting with resettlement and registration for highly vulnerable refugees in countries of first asylum;
  • Identifying avenues to safety for individuals who are in their country of origin but unable to cross a border because of their gender expression or other vulnerability; and
  • Working to ensure that all refugees who are seeking admission to the United States have access to counsel.

Our Response to the Needs of Iraqi and Afghan Allies of the United States

The United States’ presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has relied on the life-saving assistance of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans who put themselves in danger to serve alongside U.S. troops, diplomats, and contractors. Since 2008, IRAP has stood by these allies. IRAP is working to:

  • Lead advocacy efforts urging Congress to renew and extend the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and provide sufficient visas based on the number of applicants;
  • Ensure that Iraqis, who no longer have access to the Iraqi SIV program, can access legal and safe pathways through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program’s Direct Access Program (DAP);
  • Build public support for the DAP and Afghan SIV programs, by supporting national and international media and engaging networks of veterans and other national security experts to speak in support of the program; and
  • Leverage IRAP’s extensive direct legal aid experience on behalf of Afghan and Iraqi SIV advocates to provide concrete proposals to improve and accelerate processing in the SIV programs.

Read our policy reports on the ongoing importance of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program A Question of Honor – The Ongoing Importance of the Afghan SIV Program (March 2017) and on protection for Iraqi partners in Fifteen Years On: Protecting Iraqi Wartime Partners (March 2018).

Recent IRAP Policy Achievements

In 2018, IRAP expanded partnerships to organize support for U.S. refugee resettlement in light of devastating rollbacks in access to protection for vulnerable groups, such as LGBTI refugees, religious minorities, and Iraqi wartime partners. We continued to lead efforts to extend protection for the Afghan SIV program. IRAP also advocated for greater transparency in the Muslim ban waiver process.

In fiscal years 2016-18, IRAP’s advocacy efforts resulted in Congress renewing the life-saving Afghan SIV program and providing 10,500 additional visas to Afghans who worked with the U.S. government.

When the State Department announced its intention to retroactively apply stricter eligibility requirements to the program, IRAP was successful in its campaign to reverse that position, restoring eligibility for up to 3,000 affected Afghan SIV applicants and their families. IRAP Policy has successfully advocated for SIV applicants who are eligible for the SIV program under law but who had been excluded by the State Department, allowing Afghans in danger to access this vital program.

In February 2016, the State Department approved an IRAP proposal allowing Syrian refugees with close family in the United States to apply for refugee status—up to 15,000 Syrians were able to reunite more quickly with their families.

The attacks on the rights of refugees and displaced people demand immediate and bold action. IRAP innovates smart and durable solutions, proving that the plight of refugees is anything but hopeless.

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