Thursday, May 24, 2018


Emily Villano ’19

I decided to come to Yale, I think, because it didn't feel like Yale was a conventional law school. I really felt like Yale gives its students a lot of freedom. And that means that their horizons are just much broader than getting a JD at the end of three years.

I think the students here want to make a difference in people's lives. They want to be leaders. They want to help people. And that was a really exciting energy that I wanted to be a part of.

I joined the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic here at Yale when I was a 1L, so in my second semester of law school. And it's really been kind of a defining experience for me here. I think that WIRAC gives its students sort of unparalleled opportunities, largely because it gives its students a lot of responsibilities.

So we're able to do things that people don't get to do until many years out of law school. I was able to stand up and argue in federal court. I've been doing legislative advocacy at our local Board of Alders here in New Haven.

I've worked with community organizations. I've interviewed clients, written briefs—so just an incredible range of experiences that I think has given me really crucial training to become a lawyer and to serve my clients.

Last semester, I was involved in a case called Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen. And this was a case challenging the Trump administration's decision to terminate DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. So this was a really high-stakes litigation. And it moved at a kind of incredible pace.

We were in court twice a month. We were doing discovery and depositions. We bounced between the Second Circuit and the district court. And this was all in the space of a couple of months in my second year of law school. So it was really, really amazing to be a part of.

Also, I didn't just feel like I was a part of this litigation. But I really felt like I was on the front lines. I was able to stand up and argue on behalf of my clients in federal court. My writing and legal research ended up in the briefs that we wrote. And the same is true for my teammates in the clinic who I worked with.

So I really felt like I played a part in shaping this litigation. And that's really cool as a law student. This spring, a judge in Brooklyn, Judge Garaufis, finally granted our clients a nationwide preliminary injunction. He basically said that the Trump administration could not pull DACA the way that they had.

And that means that, for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients, they can still apply for deferred action. And they can still live and work here in this country, which, for many of them, is the only country they've ever known as home. Over the course of this litigation, I've gotten to know some of our clients, some of our plaintiffs in this case. And just knowing what this decision means to them is so gratifying. I'm just so thrilled that this was the outcome in the case. 

A student perspective on working with the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, including the experience of securing a nation-wide injunction in the DACA case Batalla Vidal v. Nielson.

Spring 2018