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2017 Iscol lecturer to tackle fight for refugees

Media Contact

Joe Schwartz

Rebecca Heller

Rebecca Heller, co-founder and director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, will be on campus next week to discuss how advocates can fight for the rights of refugees against the waves of right-wing populist xenophobia sweeping through the U.S. and Europe.

The Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research will host the annual Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service Lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Call Auditorium, Kennedy Hall. Heller’s talk is free and open to all.

A visiting clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School, Heller founded and directs the International Refugee Assistance Project (formerly the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project), an organization that assists refugees in applying for resettlement from abroad and adjusting to life in the United States.

Upon learning that an executive order blocking refugees was coming, Heller fired off messages to her vast network of law students and pro bono lawyers: “Tell any client who already has a visa to GET ON A PLANE! for the United States. Get ready for the possibility that they will be detained upon landing.” “URGENT - Protect refugees arriving at airports!”

In the talk, Heller will discuss obstacles Syrian refugees face in attempting to seek safe passage, how the politicization of refugees has conflated mass migration with terrorist infiltration, and how a group of lawyers and law students are fighting back.

Heller, who graduated from Yale Law School in 2010 and received her B.A. from Dartmouth College, has launched chapters of the International Refugee Assistance Project at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Columbia, Stanford and New York University law schools. She has worked on social justice through student internships with such organizations as the Immigration Unit of the New York Legal Aid Society and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic.

The Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service is supported by an endowment from the Iscol Family Foundation. Ken ’60 and Jill Iscol’s objective is to educate and inspire a new generation of community leaders to tackle problems our society faces.

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.