Professor Michele Pistone was awarded the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Medal from St. John’s University on September 21. The Medal is given to an outstanding Catholic laywoman who embodies in her life the values and vision of Mother Seton. St. John’s University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, PhD, presented Pistone with the Medal as part of the annual Vincentian Convocation.
A graduate of St. John’s University School of Law, Pistone was honored for her work on behalf of refugees and immigrants and for her scholarship in Catholic Social Thought. She is the founding director of Villanova’s Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES) and a prolific author on topics ranging from asylum and refugee protection, immigration and Catholic Social Thought to legal education reform. Pistone is also an editor of the Journal on Migration and Human Security, a publication of the Center for Migration Studies.
In accepting the award, Pistone spoke about her own family’s immigrant experience and how it influenced her formation as a lawyer. She reflected, “I am thrilled to be honored by St. John’s University and proud to be able to dedicate my life’s work to helping refugees, who are among the most vulnerable of God’s children.”
In CARES, an international human rights and immigration clinic, Villanova Law students learn about immigration law and procedure, as well as lawyering skills and values, in the context of representing real clients -- refugees who have fled human rights abuses in their home countries and seek asylum in the United States. Under Pistone’s direction and supervision, CARES students represent one or more refugees in a court proceeding before an Immigration Court Judge or in an asylum interview before a Department of Homeland Security, USCIS Asylum Officer.
Since its creation in 2000, CARES has won asylum for more than 300 refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, Uganda and Zimbabwe.