Interning to help Iraqi refugees: promoting the common good at home and abroad
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Program (IRAP) offices at the Urban Justice Center are located on the ninth floor of a low budget office building on the southern tip of Manhattan. The red brick building, which Hurricane Sandy hit hard almost three months ago, still shows signs of wear from the superstorm. I entered the building through a temporary entrance hidden by scaffolding and blue tarps. For five days over winter break, I rode the R-train for 45 minutes down to Rector Street from my safe Upper East Side neighborhood to volunteer as an IRAP intern. Within minutes of walking into the dark, empty, no frills offices to introduce myself to IRAP co-founder Becca Heller, a 2010 Yale Law School graduate, and I was put to work preparing briefs on the conditions of Iraqi refugees due for presentation the next day at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, D.C. Over 10,000 Iraqis have been displaced by war and resettled in squalid refugee camps for years and are in desperate need of assistance.