American International Group, Inc. in partnership with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), the global partnership project of Pro Bono Institute and the Association of Corporate Counsel, is proud to present the 2014 CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to American International Group, Inc.’s (AIG) Global Legal, Compliance, Regulatory, and Government Affairs department (GLCR) in partnership with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) for their innovative collaboration that assists refugees in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, and North Africa, whose lives are in imminent danger due to their work with the U.S. government. This partnership, in which attorneys and para-professionals remotely assist clients across the globe, demonstrates the great impact that in-house pro bono can make and serves as a replicable model for other legal departments.
In 2012, as part of a successful effort to restructure the company, the AIG pro bono program was created to offer members of the GLCR meaningful opportunities to provide pro bono work to those in need. In the short time since, more than 100 dedicated professionals in eight cities around the world have provided more than 3,000 hours of legal services to organizations and individuals.
Among AIG’s first pro bono efforts was its partnership with IRAP. Since its launch, 36 AIG attorneys and para-professionals in the U.S., working in teams of three and four with the assistance of colleagues in Germany and the United Arab Emirates, have provided more than 650 hours of legal assistance to Afghan nationals who have aided the U.S., often as interpreters, and who are now targets of anti-American violence. Although Congress created a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to help these
persecuted allies immigrate to the U.S. in 2009, only 12 percent of the visas available to Afghans have been distributed, in large part due to the difficulty of applying. Members of the GLCR represent individual clients and tackle the process of gathering information and completing the forms and procedures necessary to navigate the complex bureaucratic system and successfully obtain SIVs for at-risk individuals. In addition, AIG has assisted IRAP with the appeal of an SIV rejection, has donated funds for the effort, and offered its government relations expertise.
Prior to this partnership, IRAP had not worked with in-house counsel. With that in mind, AIG and IRAP devoted substantial time and effort to build a robust and replicable partnership. Such efforts have included regular communication, periodic evaluation, and a training and internal support program in which IRAP trainings are accessible online to new volunteers and those who need a refresher. IRAP also provides presentations on new developments, AIG volunteers are invited to IRAP events, and AIG volunteers meet internally every six weeks to learn from one another. To date, IRAP has replicated this model with three other major corporations.
The impact of this work has been wide-ranging and powerful, from a client who successfully obtained a visa and began a new life in the U.S. to three major policy/ legislative victories. The first victory in October 2013 was the extension of the Iraqi SIV program. It was followed by landmark legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act that gave the more than 70,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqi and Afghan SIV applicants access to counsel in overseas procedures, provided the first formal right of appeal for a visa denial, created an ombudsman for the program, and implemented quarterly reporting requirements to Congress. The third occurred in July 2014 and added an additional 1,000 visas to the Afghan SIV program.
AIG’s commitment to pro bono is exemplified through its innovative and successful partnership with IRAP. This partnership exhibits AIG’s steadfast commitment to saving the lives and families of those who served the U.S. at incredible personal risk. CPBO congratulates AIG and IRAP for their collaboration and lifesaving impact.