Five first-year law students recently returned from an exploratory trip to Jordan as part of their work with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). The students—Lisa Li, Nikki Marquez, Katherine McBride, Swain Uber, and Keny Zurita—traveled to Amman during spring break to learn more about the situation of refugees in the Middle East, what organizations in Jordan are doing to manage the ongoing refugee crisis, and the crucial role IRAP plays in the resettlement process. While there they were able to meet with IRAP clients, whom they had been working with remotely since the fall, and assist IRAP in conducting intake interviews.
IRAP is a national organization comprising a network of 22 chapters and approximately 500 students and pro bono attorneys who provide legal assistance and policy advocacy on behalf of refugees seeking resettlement in the United States. The trip to the Middle East is meant to provide students a wider context for their legal and advocacy work—and students say they were able to bring back information and insight into both the resettlement process and the practical realities of what being a refugee in Jordan is like.
“Meeting with members of the Iraqi refugee community—parents looking to provide an education for their children and young professionals with poor economic prospects—brought home both the small and large vexations of the situation, wherein refugees are ready and willing to contribute to society but structurally unable to do so,” says Keny Zurita, JD ’15. For Nikki Marquez, JD ’15 (BA ’05), the trip was valuable not only because she was able to meet with the people she was trying to help but because, she says, she was able to “grasp the complexity of the situation for the first time,” leaving her recommitted to helping to improve the resettlement process.