Hayley Schultz ’24 was one of nine students who worked with clients unable to remain in Jordan at IRAP’s office in Amman. She co-wrote this blog for IRAP with Shae Heitz of the University of Connecticut Law School.
Hayley Schultz at IRAP Office
Hayley Schultz '24 at IRAP Office in Jordan

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there will be 117.2 million people forcibly displaced or stateless by the end of 2023. While countries like the United States have ample resources and capacity to welcome refugees and other displaced people, xenophobic policies and processes mired in bureaucracy limit their access to safety in the United States. In fact, refugees account for just 0.2% of the total population in the United States, while Jordan hosts the second highest number of refugees proportional to its total population – 10.4% – despite having significantly fewer resources to do so.

In March of this year, nine students from [International Refugee Assistance ProjectIRAP law school chapters across the United States and Canada traveled to Amman, Jordan to work with the IRAP Jordan office to pursue refugee resettlement opportunities for clients unable to remain in Jordan. Historically, IRAP conducted spring break trips annually, but this was the first in-person trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Students spent the week working in teams of two, with the help of an interpreter, to conduct intake interviews with refugees living in Jordan. After the interviews, students wrote referrals for the clients and their families, advocating for resettlement to a third country. 

Less than 1% of refugees worldwide are resettled to a safe third country, which is why most refugees end up stuck for years or even decades in situations that are meant to be temporary. In the resettlement referrals we drafted, we expressed to UNHCR why the clients and their families had specific vulnerabilities, such as having survived violence or torture, unmet medical needs, or legal and physical protection needs that make life in Jordan untenable.

Painted stairs in Jordan

While all of the participating students had some experience working with refugees or other displaced populations, for many of us, this was our first time working with clients on the ground in a place where they had ongoing protection or humanitarian concerns. The majority of refugees in Jordan are Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Somali, and Yemeni, and have lived through devastating, years-long conflicts. To be the most helpful to the clients, students had to ask the clients specific details about why they fled their home country, and why they were not able to remain in Jordan. It was challenging to ask the clients about the violence, torture, and threats they experienced in their country of origin, and in some cases, have continued to experience in Jordan. Thanks in part to the excellent training students received from IRAP staff, we were able to conduct trauma-informed interviews with clients that centered around empathy, humility, and collaboration.

While many of the clients we met with fled to Jordan for safety, not all were welcomed with open arms. Many refugees and their families continue to face threats in Jordan, whether due to racial discrimination, insecure housing, lack of access to education or medical care, and limited or unequal employment opportunities. Only Syrian refugees can obtain work authorization in Jordan, and without the same opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, refugees of other nationalities are often unable to remain in Jordan.

The Citadel in Jordan

It was deeply frustrating and discouraging to hear about the challenges these clients continue to face simply because of their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a particular social group. During these interviews, clients talked about some of the most difficult times in their lives, and IRAP students listened and offered any support we could. One of the most impactful experiences of the week was watching a client light up when they talked about their children, their hobbies, or the work they left behind in their home country. It is important to remember during these types of conversations that people are so much more than their stories of persecution; they are students, artists, and business people. Refugees want the same things as everyone else – safety and stability for their families to live a happy life. As law students in the United States and Canada – two countries with ample resources to welcome people seeking safety – we returned home with a strengthened resolve to urge our countries to do more.

Hayley Schultz '24

Hayley Schultz

Hayley Schultz is a rising 3L at Rutgers Law School. She is originally from the Northeast but spent many years away from the region before law school, working with immigrants and refugees in D.C., on the U.S-Mexico border, in Canada and the Middle East. This summer, she will be interning with Innovation Law Lab, working to bring systemic change to our immigration system through impact litigation. Hayley is an Immigrant Rights Fellow and former co-president of the Rutgers-IRAP chapter.