Villanova University Program Provides Legal Help to Refugees and Immigrants

David Bjorkgren
Immigration attorney and law professor Michele Pistone of Villanova University. Image via

Villanova is providing legal aid to migrants and refugees through a new program launched in August at the university, writes Gina Christian for

Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigrations Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA) is a one-year online curriculum allowing graduates to be U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representatives.

The program offers a certificate in immigrant accompaniment to represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security. They assist in interviews and filing for immigration and humanitarian benefits, like asylum, naturalization and work permit renewals.

Completing the program means they can appear before the DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, to represent clients who may be facing deportation.

Six out of every 10 immigrants have no access to an advocate, yet if they have a lawyer in court, they are 10 times more likely to be successful based on the merits of their case, said program founder Michele Pistone.

Pistone is an immigration attorney and a Villanova professor of immigration law.

“The court in general works better when everyone has an advocate,” she said. “It’s more efficient, it’s easier to present cases, and it’s easier for the judge to adjudicate when both parties are represented.”

Read more about this Villanova program to help refugees and immigrants here.

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