The List Project is a non-profit operating in the U.S., founded with the belief that the United States Government has a clear and urgent moral obligation to resettle to safety Iraqis who are imperiled due to their affiliation with the United States of America.
The List Project is the first comprehensive organizational effort to honor the sacrifice of these Iraqis. It has three pillars:
- Help as many of the hundreds of Iraqis on our constantly-expanding List make it to the United States through our groundbreaking partnerships with eight top law firms and over 250 attorneys.
- Help successfully-resettled Iraqis succeed in their new lives through an ever-growing network of American volunteers in our Netroots program. These volunteers have formed chapters across the country and are helping Iraqi refugees with everything from retooling resumes to finding furniture.
- To provide recently resettled Iraqi children with support and material resources to adjust to life in the United States. The List Kids, a program of the List Project, sends monthly care packages for his or her first year in this country to give the children a sense of belonging and to provide resources to promote academic success. These packages include books, school supplies, ESL materials, toys, gift cards, and other emergency assistance.
Never before has there been such a vast group of refugees with access to their own pro bono representation by top U.S. law firms. Our partnership with domestic NGOs will maximize their integration so that they can be productive and successful in their new lives here in the U.S. The project hopes to contribute to a fundamental paradigm-shift in the way at-risk refugees can be assisted.
There is reason for optimism. We have succeeded in resettling nearly 2,500 Iraqis who fled their country because they helped us. American citizens write each day to offer rooms in their homes for the Iraqis we resettle, and contribute what small amounts they can. But the List continues to grow at a frightening pace. An average of twelve new Iraqis are referred or write to the List Project each week. Because of the absurdly lengthy resettlement process, our allies who have fled to neighboring countries are losing hope of a life in peace in America, and with increasing regularity, giving up and submitting to whatever deadly fate awaits them back in Iraq.
The List Project is a U.S. 501(c)3 non-profit organization under the Tides Center.
Lawyers at our founding partners Holland & Knight, Mayer Brown and Proskauer Rose are each assigned individual Iraqi allies from the List and charged with guiding them through the process and advocating for them. In fall 2010, the List Project welcomed five additional law firm partners, Crowell & Moring, Dechert, Kaye Scholer, Steptoe & Johnson, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges, each of which have taken on a number of pilot cases to assist with our burgeoning caseload.
December 2006, Kirk Johnson, a former USAID worker who been based in Baghdad and Fallujah throughout 2005, received a message from a former Iraqi colleague. A few weeks earlier while walking home from his job assisting the U.S., “Y” (real name withheld) had found a severed dog’s head thrown on his front steps with a note pinned to it that said: “Your head will be next.” When the U.S. government offered him no help, “Y” and his wife packed what they could carry and, after years of service to America, fled Iraq.
Johnson wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times describing Y’s plight and calling on the U.S. to save those Iraqis imperiled by their belief in America and its state-building effort. Soon thereafter, Johnson began hearing from many others who had endured similar fates. He began documenting the names and whereabouts of former Iraqi colleagues and found that nearly 70% of the Iraqis he had worked with throughout 2005 were refugees in Syria, Jordan, the UAE, and other countries. Within weeks, Johnson’s List had grown dramatically.
When he had accounted for the whereabouts of all of his former USAID colleagues, Johnson delivered his List to the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in Washington DC, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In March 2007, the List was featured in a New Yorker article by George Packer, and was discussed in a Congressional hearing on the issue. The increased exposure led many Foreign Service officers, veterans and other American supervisors to refer their former Iraqi staff to Johnson for help. These Iraqis included State Department direct-hires, military interpreters employed by Titan/L3, and employees of USAID’s implementing partners on reconstruction such as Bechtel, National Democratic Institute, and Research Triangle Institute. All bore the same stigma incurred by the USAID employees.
As his List continued to grow, Johnson published an op-ed in the New York Times in April 2007 that called for a quicker response by the US government and a remedy for problems created by the Patriot Act’s material support bar. To help with the burgeoning List, he formed a partnership with law firms Holland and Knight, Proskauer Rose, and Mayer Brown to provide pro bono legal services for each individual Iraqi on the List.
On June 20th, 2007, World Refugee Day, The List Project was formally launched with the mission of helping America’s endangered Iraqi allies. It assists them by pressing their cases with relevant authorities, counseling them on the pitfalls of the screening process, helping them find new careers in the US, providing them with small grants and loans, connecting them with American volunteers and raising awareness of the issue through media. Our partnering law firms have plowed tens of thousands of pro bono hours into the caseload; to our knowledge, it is the largest single pro bono initiative ever undertaken on behalf of refugees. Since our founding, we have helped nearly 2,500 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis (including ‘Y’) resettle to safety in the United States.