News & Resources

Press Release: IRAP Thrilled to Welcome Four New Hires in Top Leadership Positions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                     

March 5, 2020


Henrike Dessaules



(New York, NY)The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is pleased to announce four new hires to build out the organization’s leadership team in a time of rapid growth. The new team members will strategically lead IRAP’s growing programs and staff to scale our work and remain on the cutting edge of protecting the rights of forced migrants, both domestically and globally.

IRAP will be joined by Nisha Agarwal and Amy Taylor as Deputy Executive Directors, who will provide strategic vision and leadership for the IRAP team. Agarwal will oversee the Policy and Communications departments, as well as a brand new initiative on climate refugees, and Taylor will lead IRAP’s programming in the Legal and Litigation departments. Carmen Maria Rey will join IRAP’s Legal Department as U.S. Legal Services Director, where she will lead a team of attorneys and caseworkers that provide individual legal assistance to refugees, as well as oversee our national pro bono network. Sunil Varghese will lead IRAP’s Policy department as Policy Director to continue and expand IRAP’s formidable track record of successful advocacy and of building non-traditional and non-partisan coalitions in support of refugee rights. All of the new hires were selected through extremely rigorous national search processes.

“We are thrilled to welcome Nisha, Amy, Carmen, and Sunil to our team. They will bring exceptional insight, experience, and passion as we seek to deepen and scale our ground-breaking work in the field of refugee rights,” said Becca Heller, IRAP’s Executive Director.

Nisha Agarwal served as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs since the beginning of the de Blasio Administration, building landmark initiatives like IDNYC, the City’s municipal identification card, and Cities for Action, a national advocacy coalition of local elected officials. For the second term of de Blasio’s administration, Agarwal took on the role of Senior Advisor to the Deputy Mayor to boost civic engagement among New Yorkers and build DemocracyNYC’s efforts on immigration, disability, and healthcare. A child of immigrants from India, she became a public interest lawyer out of Harvard Law School, leading the Health Justice Program at the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest in 2006. She later was the deputy director and co-founder of the Center for Popular Democracy and the executive director of the Immigrant Justice Corps. She officially joins IRAP on March 23, 2020.  

Amy Taylor joins IRAP from Make the Road New York (MRNY), where as Co-Legal Director she led a team of attorneys and advocates who provide legal services to low-wage workers and immigrant New Yorkers and oversaw MRNY’s immigration-related litigation docket. Taylor was also a Senior Staff Attorney and the founder of the Equal Rights Initiative (now the Civil Rights Justice Initiative) at Legal Services NYC (LSNYC). Before working at Legal Services NYC, Taylor was the Director of Policy at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs where she worked on language access initiatives among other policies, and before that was the Public Benefits and Language Access Coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition. Taylor received her J.D. from the CUNY School of Law. She will join IRAP effective April 20, 2020.

Carmen Maria Rey comes to IRAP from Brooklyn Law School, where, for the past two years, she served as Co-Director of the school’s Safe Harbor immigration clinic and as Assistant Professor of Clinical Law. Rey joined the Brooklyn Law School faculty after close to a decade at Sanctuary for Families, a prominent gender rights organization. As Director of Sanctuary’s immigration unit, Rey led efforts to defend thousands of immigrant survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and related forms of gender-based violence before federal immigration agencies and federal courts. Prior to (re)joining Sanctuary for Families, where she first started her legal career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Rey was a Senior Immigration Attorney at Her Justice, a nonprofit focused on protecting the rights of low-income women. Rey received her J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. She will begin working at IRAP on March 6.

Sunil Varghese previously worked on immigration matters for the Senate Judiciary Committee as a Counsel to Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. Before joining the Committee, Varghese spent over seven years in several positions with the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, including Deputy Director of the Newark Asylum Office. He has interviewed asylum seekers along the U.S. – Mexico border and refugees in Central and Southern Africa and Central America. Varghese joined the federal government after serving as the Asylum Program Attorney at the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and an Associate at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP. Varghese received his J.D. and Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University. He will assume his new role effective April 15, 2020.