Enforcing Legal and Human Rights for Refugees
Becca is the director and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), an innovative non-profit “virtual public interest law firm” that works to save refugees’ lives, assure their passage to safe destination countries, shape thought and practice in the United States and around the globe, and train the next generation of international human rights advocates.Becca Heller is part of the 2017 class of Tällberg Global Leaders and winner of the Eliasson Global Leadership Prize of the Tällberg Foundation
Learn more about Rebecca Heller
Becca Heller is the director and co-founder of IRAP and visiting clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her work with IRAP, including the Charles Bronfman Prize, the American Constitutional Society David Carliner Public Interest Award, a Skadden Fellowship, a Draper Richards Kaplan Fellowship, an Echoing Green Fellowship, a Gruber Human Rights Fellowship, the South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut Annual Community Service Award and a Dartmouth College Martin Luther King Jr. Emerging Leader in Social Justice Award. She was also named Foreign Policy’s Citizen Diplomat of the Year, Politico’s Women Rule Summit Ambassador, one of the Christian Science Monitor’s “30 under 30” change makers, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Becca has also been honored as an Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service Lecturer at Cornell University and as a speaker at the Chicago Ideas Week Edison Talk.
Becca’s interest in the legal challenges facing refugees began on a trip to Jordan during the summer after her first year in law school. During her stay, she visited with six different refugee families; each of them identified legal assistance as their most urgent need. Having just completed her first semester in Yale Law School’s Immigration Legal Services clinic doing asylum work, Becca believed that law students could assist refugees applying for resettlement.
She returned to Yale and, together with Jon Finer, Mike Breen, Steve Poellot, and Kate Brubacher, founded IRAP in 2008. Becca received her J.D. from Yale Law School in May 2010. During law school, she participated in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, the Immigration Legal Services Clinic, and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic. She served as an Articles Editor for the Yale Journal of International Law, and received a Coker Fellowship to teach legal writing to first year law students. She also received the Charles G. Albom Prize for excellence in the area of judicial and administrative appellate advocacy in connection with a Law School clinical program. Prior to law school, Becca lived and worked in Sub-Saharan Africa for two years, including one year as a U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar in Malawi. She graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 2005. While in college, she was also the recipient of Campus Compact’s National Student Humanitarian Award.