A group of 26 people - IRAP staff and law students stand in front of the U.S. Capitol building.
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Law Students Advocate for US Wartime Allies on Capitol Hill During IRAP’s Annual Advocacy Day

Law students from IRAP chapters throughout the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. last month for IRAP’s annual Advocacy Day. The day’s agenda was packed with over 40 meetings with congressional offices that we documented on our Instagram story.

This year, student advocates met with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill to discuss delays in the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) and Iraqi Direct Access Program (DAP). Congress created these programs to provide an avenue to safety in the United States for former wartime partners of the U.S. government who face persecution in their home country arising from their collaboration with American forces. IRAP chapter members sought signatures from members of the House of Representatives on a bipartisan sign-on letter addressed to high-ranking members of the Trump Administration requesting information on the slowdown in their processing of SIV and DAP applications. Among the materials distributed were also copies of IRAP Policy Director Betsy Fisher’s op-ed for The Hill.

Ashley Lee, a 2L at Georgetown Law who met with staffers from the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, emphasized the importance of following through with our wartime allies:

“If our wartime partners cannot work with us without the security of being granted asylum they will not help us for fear of death and/or other retaliation.”

On what she took away from her Advocacy Day experience, Ashley said, “I appreciated being able to do my part in getting the plight of these refugees on the minds of lawmakers and possibly creating a pathway for positive change that will not only benefit the refugees but all of America.”

David Johnson, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the American University Washington College of Law IRAP chapter, wrote about how personal the issue at hand is to him in a blog, “The interpreters that I worked with were always there when I needed them.”

On the emotions and renewed vigor that advocating on behalf of refugees has left him with, David wrote:

“Advocacy Day forced me to step out of my comfort zone and the mundane routine of my everyday law school life, and it reminded me of my career mission to help others who struggle with severe adversities in their daily lives.”