Systemic Advocacy

IRAP has a formidable track record of successful advocacy at the systemic level: in the 113th Congress alone, our policy advocacy helped enact into law six separate pieces of federal legislation, offering life-saving visas and legal protections to over 129,000 displaced people.

As the only organization that guides refugees through every step of the resettlement process, IRAP is often able to identify obstacles of which other institutional players are unaware. Our unique model utilizes lessons learned in individual casework to advocate for systemic changes that benefit broader refugee populations. While we never turn away an urgent case that has merit, we look for cases where legal work can create precedents that will benefit the wider refugee community.

IRAP builds untraditional, nonpartisan coalitions to advocate for the rights of refugees, ranging from veterans to religious groups to corporate attorneys. We also play a major role in including refugees in U.S. immigration legislation, drafting legislative language around issues such as access to counsel and formal appeals processes, special procedures for LGBTI refugees, and expansions of the U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs for Iraqi and Afghan wartime allies.

Read our Policy Framework with recommendations and actions for the new administration (November 2016).

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:

  • Working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to develop a model that would build capacity among regional NGOs and allow UNHCR to receive NGO-submitted case referrals, dramatically speeding processing times;
  • Supporting the need for NGOs to directly refer cases to destination countries for resettlement, which would help ensure that resettlement slots are going to the most vulnerable individuals; and
  • Bringing Syrian refugee resettlement to scale through significantly ramping up IRAP’s capacity to locate, screen, and assist with resettlement and registration for Syrian refugees.

Specifically target programming and policy advocacy for the most vulnerable refugees by:

  • Identifying and representing LGBTI individuals who are seeking resettlement but are unable to cross a border due to their identification documents not matching their external gender expression;
  • Working to ensure that all refugees who are seeking admission to the United States have access to counsel; and
  • Creating one of the first legal aid programs in the Middle East and North Africa to enable the safe resettlement of survivors of sexual or gender-based violence.

Advocate for a private sponsorship program in the United States to facilitate the resettlement of additional refugees because:

  • Private sponsorship furthers refugee integration. It allows private individuals and organizations to supplement Congressional appropriations and government services towards refugees. Most importantly for refugees, private sponsors serve as a personal connection between those newly arrived to the United States and local communities, thus expediting self-sufficiency and improving local integration.
  • It enhances and broadens public support for refugee protection. By increasing direct private and philanthropic involvement in refugee resettlement, private sponsors become invested in refugee issues and grow into a constituency that pushes Congress to increase funding and implement reforms.
  • The program has been a proven success in Canada and is being implemented in countries such as Germany, Australia, and Italy. A successful private sponsorship program in the United States can also serve as a model for other countries, increasing resettlement efforts globally.

For more information, please see our two-pager on Private Sponsorship of Refugees in the United States.

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:

Ensure that the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program continues by:

  • Leading advocacy efforts urging Congress to renew and extend the Afghan SIV program.
  • Building public support for the Afghan SIV program, including by supporting national and international media and engaging networks of veterans and other national security experts to speak in support of the program.

Advocate for improvements to the SIV program by:

  • Leveraging IRAP’s extensive direct legal aid experience on behalf of Afghan and Iraqi SIV advocates to provide concrete proposals to ensure that eligible applicants are not rejected from the program, and to improve and accelerate processing in the SIV programs.
  • Building support in Congress, national media, and the general public for improvements in processing in the SIV programs.

Read our policy report on the ongoing importance of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program (March 2017): A Question of Honor – The Ongoing Importance of the Afghan SIV Program

Recent IRAP Policy Achievements

IRAP led advocacy efforts to allocate visas for the Afghan SIV program for FY 2016, succeeding in the approval of 3,000 additional visas.

The bill approving these visas also included stricter eligibility requirements. When the State Department announced its intention to apply these stricter requirements retroactively, IRAP was successful in its campaign to reverse that position, restoring eligibility for up to 3,000 affected Afghan SIV applicants.

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. Translators who had worked with the contracting company IMS can now demonstrate eligibility thanks to IRAP’s research and advocacy, 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—allowing up to 15,000 Syrians to be reunited quickly with their family, and significantly expanding the number of Syrian referrals in the resettlement pipeline.

IRAP is the key to freedom and safe passage for thousands of vulnerable men, women, and children fleeing from war, hostility, and political upheaval. In the midst of a truly overwhelming global crisis, we’re innovating smart and durable solutions, proving that the plight of refugees is anything but hopeless.

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