International Refugee Assistance Project

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) pairs law students with licensed attorneys to provide legal assistance to clients in life-or-death situations, including Iraqis and Afghans at risk for their work as interpreters with the U.S. military, children with medical emergencies, women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and survivors of torture. Many of the clients IRAP serves are inside and near Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, and are among the millions who have fled their respective countries due to war, economic deprivation, and persecution. Students work with experienced students and a supervising attorney to prepare immigration documents, respond to requests from the various immigration agencies, and generally help clients navigate the complex legal pathways towards safe resettlement here in the United States.

Cases: New students will be split up into teams of two or three and be assigned one of the new cases that IRAP national passes on to Berkeley every year. These cases involve individual or multiple clients from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. All are seeking refugee status in or family-based immigration to the United States. Although working under a supervising attorney, students will do substantial work in communicating with clients, preparing clients for interviews, contacting organizations on behalf of clients, and generally moving each case forward.

Trainings: Students will participate in skills-based trainings based on topics like working with clients from the Middle East, working with translators, and conducting interviews with clients who have experienced trauma.

Advocacy: IRAP also participates in advocacy events related to our work. In the past year, this has included speaking events around the Syrian refugee crisis and IRAP-Berkeley’s work in Lebanon, fundraisers to generate money for clients, writing op-eds on attempts to block resettlement in the U.S., etc.  We also work closely with other refugee and immigration based groups on campus to coordinate advocacy events on more general topics.

Time Commitment: On average, case work and other assorted events occupy 2-5 hours a week. This will fluctuate with developments in a student’s individual case and any major events that IRAP is putting together. Students are expected to remain on the case until there is a final determination of the client’s status, which can span the course of a student’s entire law school experience.

IRAP involves working with clients in dire situations, whose cases often take a long time to resolve. As a result, we expect students to honor their commitments they make to both their clients and the organization as a whole. In return, students receive a wealth of hands-on opportunities working on immigration and refugee cases, the ability to pursue their own passions through IRAP’s advocacy efforts, and the opportunity to meet students in IRAP’s various chapters who are interested in immigration and refugee issues.

Video Recording of the Fall 2016 Immigration SLPS Information Session (Introduction to: Berkeley Immigration Group – Detention Project; Berkeley Immigration Law Clinic; Boalt Anti-Trafficking Project; California Asylum Representation Clinic; East Bay Dreamer Clinic; and International Refugee Assistance Project). Recorded Thursday, September 1.

For more information, please contact the student leaders at

How To Apply


We are grateful to our supporters:

Dena Y. Acevedo ’12

Ryan K. Elsey ’12

Morrison & Foerster Foundation

David B. Oppenheimer

Matthew D. Pelnar ’13