Yael Ben Tov

  • Hosted by International Refugee Assistance Project
  • Sponsored by Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Yeshiva University Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
  • Issue area Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Yael seeks to enforce refugees’ rights to be safely reunited with their families, through lawsuits seeking prompt adjudication of delayed follow-to join applications, community outreach, and systemic advocacy.

During the difficult, sometimes chaotic flight to safety, refugee families are often separated and unable to travel together. Acknowledging this reality, the Follow-to-Join (FTJ) process was created as an immigration pathway specifically for refugee and asylee family reunification. Processing standstills have kept thousands of refugee families separated for years, often living in precarious conditions as they wait to reunify. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these delays. As the backlog grows, follow-to-join refugees need systemic advocacy efforts to enforce their right to be reunited with their families in the United States.

Yael’s family history drives her desire to build a career assisting immigrants and refugees as they face an increasingly complex and hostile immigration system.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

So far during the Fellowship, Yael has:

  • Litigated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of two Sudanese refugees, now resettled in the Baltimore area, who have been waiting years to be reunified with their families
  • Investigated processing delays through the Freedom of Information Act and other litigation
  • Contributed to a public report and published a summary describing the causes of follow-to-join delay and making recommendations for addressing those delays

Next Steps

In the next year, Yael plans to:

  • Develop further litigation strategies to reunify refugees who have been separated from their families
  • Expand advocacy and litigation to address security vetting inefficiencies that contribute to delays.
  • Coordinate with pro bono and organizational partners to support litigation to address delayed FTJ petitions and reunify refugees with their families.


Opinion: I’m a Sudanese refugee. This Father’s Day, all I want is to be reunited with my family.

Sudanese Refugees File Suit Over Delayed Reunification Apps

'No child should be away from their mom': Trump policies make it nearly impossible for refugees to come to US

As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I feel deeply committed to using my law degree to assist those who are fleeing persecution in my own lifetime.

Yael Ben Tov /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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