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IRAP’s Third Annual Pro Bono Appreciation Week Honors Volunteer Network

During IRAP’s third annual Pro Bono Appreciation week, we honored 48 law students, pro bono attorneys, pro bono partners, and volunteers from our network. These honorees represent some of our most dedicated and passionate volunteers. On behalf of everyone at IRAP, thank you to all of the honorees and our entire pro bono and volunteer network for all the work that you do to ensure that everyone has a safe place to live and a safe way to get there. 

2023 Pro Bono Appreciation Week Honorees 

Honorees: Taylor Whitten and Rafaela Calcena

The King & Spalding team’s expeditious work helped their client obtain permanent status in the United States quickly after being evacuated from Afghanistan following the U.S. military withdrawal. They have been dedicated throughout the case, working with speed and efficiency. They have also been a wonderful pro bono team for IRAP to work with – providing timely updates, reaching out for support when needed, and taking initiative to learn about legal issues and processes.

“IRAP gave us a lot of support, which was essential to successfully evacuate [our clients] from Afghanistan. It felt great to be a part of a team that was working towards helping [the family] reunite safely in a new country.” Taylor Whitten and Rafaela Calcena

Honorees: Michelle Le, Mei Dan, and David Singh

The Weil team has been working with their client for many years, assisting him to navigate the Special Immigrant Visa process and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The team continues to advocate tirelessly to push the U.S. government to approve their client’s application. Many thanks to Michelle, Mei, and David for their client-centered advocacy on this case.

“I’ve gained confidence in myself and my role as an advocate for our client, particularly when faced with rejection or silence. My parents were also refugees, so it’s an incredibly powerful and rewarding experience to help someone else on their journey to safety.” Michelle Le

Honorees: Brandon Kinnard and Oliver Armas

This Hogan team has been working on the family reunification petition for an Iraqi family for three years. They have been there through every step of the process, filing petitions, responding to requests for evidence, and are now assisting the family navigate refugee resettlement and immigrant visa processes. They have been fantastic advocates for their clients and a pleasure to work with! 

“[My work with IRAP] has shown me that I have what it takes to become a competent advocate in a brand new area of law . . . This realization has increased my confidence across so many aspects of my practice, and for that I am thankful.” Brandon Kinnard

Honorees: Adam Silow, Anika Havaldar, Carla Yoon, David Livshiz, Ellen Lawrence, Justin Simeone, Kaitie Holland, Linda Martin, Matt Rublin, Mia Tsui, Rebecca Kerr, Wang Jae Rhee, Timothy Langsdorf

Since 2018, Freshfields and IRAP have partnered together on Afghan and Iraqi Allies v. Blinken, a case challenging systemic delays in adjudication of Special Immigrant Visa applications of Afghans and Iraqis whose lives are at risk because of their work supporting U.S. efforts in their home countries. Freshfields has been an invaluable partner in this litigation, working with IRAP through rounds of depositions, briefings, and court appearances. IRAP is thankful for all that they do on behalf of our clients.

“The daily practice of law can feel removed from the concrete effects of the law and its potential impact on individuals. This case is a stark reminder of real-world dangers faced by our clients thousands of miles away under brutal Taliban rule, and the power of litigation to affect individual lives.” The Freshfields Team

Honoree: Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP

IRAP began partnering with Patterson Belknap in 2017. Since then, the firm has taken on over 25 cases, ranging from representing Afghans in humanitarian parole applications to helping a Syrian family navigate UNHCR refugee resettlement. Most recently, Patterson Belknap teams are working to file mandamus litigation challenging processing delays in follow to join cases for separated refugee families. IRAP is grateful for the dedication and hard work of all of the attorneys we have worked with, as well as the ongoing partnership with the firm.

“I have had the pleasure of working with IRAP for a few years now and I am consistently amazed by our clients’ perseverance.  Despite what can be a long and arduous process that only adds to the many stresses our clients face, they remain hopeful in the legal process.  It’s inspiring to see their perseverance and faith in the face of obstacles few of us can imagine and is a reminder how powerful and life-changing our work as attorneys can be.” W. Scott Kim

Honorees: Nina McKenna, Emily Devlin, Paulina Leyva Hernandez, Zoe Kline, Avery Leshan

This year, a team of CUNY IRAP students worked on a research project about the Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee and Parole Program and populations historically excluded from accessing the program. The team conducted exhausted desk research to analyze available evidence on specific demographics and identify areas in need of ongoing research. The students combed through dozens of sources and hundreds of pages to organize and synthesize a huge body of work and its omissions. IRAP is grateful for and impressed by the insights and commitment of this student project team.

“I wish others looked at refugees and displaced people with more empathy. I wish others knew the challenges they face and understood that everyone deserves a safe place to live and safe methods to travel.” Emily Devlin

Honorees: Asad Khimani, Carlos Hurtado-Esteve, Luis Fiallos, Kavitha Babu

The University of Michigan project team worked on an advocacy project this year trying to make in-state tuition more accessible to migrant communities. The project involved background research and coalition building with the goal of persuading the University of Michigan to include parolees, TPS holders, and asylum seekers under their in-state tuition policy. IRAP is grateful for the student team’s commitment to learning how local advocacy functions and the time dedicated to trying to make their university more welcoming.

“Our education provides us with a set of skills that we can use to advocate for change, and each of us has a responsibility to think deeply about how we can leverage that skillset to improve our communities.” Asad Khimani

Honorees: Mike Brune, Hannah Lee, Lauren Batchelder, Tyler Henry

This team of Boston University law students developed and presented a Know Your Options presentation on immigration options for students across the United States who are displaced and living with temporary status. Each student took the time to understand their assigned immigration pathway, distill complicated legal information, and communicate it clearly and effectively. IRAP is grateful to Mike, Hannah, Lauren, and Tyler for their ongoing commitment to ensure accurate and accessible information is shared with students who may benefit from it.

“Working with IRAP has been such an influential experience for me. Being able to learn more about immigration and get involved in a meaningful way has reaffirmed my commitment to public interest and working with communities that are so frequently failed by our society and legal system.” Tyler Henry

Honoree: Haya Kokash

Haya began volunteering with IRAP’s Jordan office in September 2022. Since that time, she has supported the IRAP Jordan team to fulfill their mission of meaningfully serving their clients via her committed and client-centered approach. Her willingness to give her time and service is greatly appreciated.

“My work with IRAP has taught me to be more patient with people and that everyone is dealing with their own disasters in the background of what we see. Also I’ve learned to be more appreciative of what I have no matter how insufficient it might seem at the moment.” Haya Kokash

Honorees: Poonam Sandhu, Janelle Deniset, Elana Svenningsen, Laura Monteiro, Soraia Afshar

The IRAP McGIll team is a great example of the many ways law students can contribute to the movement of pro-refugee advocates. In addition to running their own chapter blog, the team piloted an intake project with IRAP this year that ran successfully in large part due to the students’ unwavering commitment. IRAP is impressed with how the McGill chapter continuously finds ways to tie IRAP’s global work to the local context in Montreal via fundraisers and other initiatives. Thank you to IRAP McGill for your dedication to IRAP’s mission and work.

“Volunteering with IRAP has been one of the most enriching experiences of my legal education at McGill Law. It has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of refugee law and policy in Canada, the United States, and internationally. I’m also grateful to IRAP for connecting me with students who are equally passionate about refugee rights.” Janelle Deniset

Honorees: Grace Denny, Stefanie Orn, Shae Heitz, Nicole Palmieri, David Del Prete, Shaquille Ricketts, Joshua Maddox, Toni-Ann Gayle

The UConn IRAP chapter demonstrates a clear commitment to IRAP’s work and client populations. In addition to their excellent work on IRAP-generated projects, the UConn team has developed strong partnerships with local organizations serving immigrant communities in Connecticut. The team is constantly seeking new ways to train their law school community on trauma-informed interviewing techniques and to leverage student interest to benefit clients. IRAP is thrilled to acknowledge the UConn IRAP chapter and look forward to seeing what they do next.

“I wish more people knew that being displaced does not mean you are less than. It does not warrant speaking down or looking down at someone. Refugees and displaced people are not monoliths and all have their own unique stories and contributions. I think that is important to keep in mind.” Toni-Ann Gayle