Michael Vastine

Michael S. Vastine

Director of Clinical Programs and
Professor of Law

Email: mvastine@stu.edu

Phone: 305.623.2340


St. Thomas University College of Law
Faculty Suite (209)
16401 NW 37th Ave
Miami Gardens, FL 33054


B.M., Oberlin Conservatory of Music
M.M., Temple University
J.D., Georgetown University Law Center


Immigration Law

Michael S. Vastine

Professor Vastine joined the faculty of the St. Thomas University College of Law in 2004. He serves as Director of Clinical Programs and directs the Immigration Clinic. His practice and research focus on immigration litigation, particularly regarding the deportation consequences of criminal convictions and the due process rights of immigrants.

Prof. Vastine has shaped the Immigration Clinic’s practice to include zealous defense work before the Immigration Court, in which students argue novel issues of law and present robust factual defenses at trial, in matters ranging from deportability and discretionary relief for crimes, to applications for asylum based on fear of foreign persecution, and the constitutional and case-specific arguments for clients to be released from immigration (administrative) detention. The docket also includes representation of immigrant victims of crimes and domestic violence, as well as complicated applications for naturalization of former Clinic clients. A long-time devotee to the merits of clinical legal education as the best vehicle for training future attorneys in the “best practices” of law, Professor Vastine also serves as a leader within the College of Law’s Clinical & Externship department, identifying, developing, and supporting “experiential” programming in which law students have their first forays into the practice of law.

Professor Vastine has a significant presence in the immigration advocacy community, in both litigation and public service. He has argued several cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, including Donawa v. United States Attorney General, which barred the treatment of Florida drug offenses as the equivalent of federal crimes for the purposes of deportation, and argued before the Florida Supreme Court in Hernandez v. State, establishing the procedural rights of Florida immigrant criminal defendants to receive constitutionally sufficient representation of counsel regarding the immigration consequences of their crimes. He has regularly served as amicus curiae counsel in high impact appellate cases, on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and numerous non-governmental organizations, in forums including the Board of Immigration Appeals, State supreme courts, various United States Circuit Courts and the United States Supreme Court.

His place in the legal community led to election to ten years of service in AILA, including the 2018-2019 term as President of the South Florida Chapter, during which the Chapter received Platinum recognition for its outstanding and comprehensive training, mentoring, outreach and congressional advocacy, as well as then-novel Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. He has served on various national committees of AILA, including the Amicus Curiae Committee and the steering committees of the Federal Litigation Section and Law Student Division. A sought-after public speaker, Prof. Vastine has presented at some 200 conferences and served as Chair of several others, including the national 2020 AILA Immigration Court Conference (on defense practice) and the 2021 AILA Federal Litigation Conference. In 2013, AILA honored Professor Vastine with its Elmer Fried Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Also a leader in the community of educators, Prof. Vastine has served various roles, including Chair, of the Membership, Outreach and Training Committee of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Clinical Section. He is a frequent presenter at local, state, regional and national meetings and conferences of clinical legal educators, including several iterations of the national AALS Conference on Clinical Education.

Professor Vastine holds a B.M. from Oberlin Conservatory of Music, an M.M. from Temple University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Scholarship & Research



Michael Vastine, Making Drug-related Deportability 1914 Again?  How a strict “categorical approach” to the CSA would eliminate unpredictable agency interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 18 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 253 (2020)

Michael Vastine, An Immigration Lawyer Walked into a Barr: The Impact of Trump’s Justice Department on the Defense of Criminal Immigrants, 25 Barry L. Rev. 57 (2020)

Michael Vastine, From Bristol, to Hollywood, to a Land Far, Far Away: Considering the Immigration Consequences of Statutory Rape, 7 Rutgers J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 289 (2010). HeinOnline

Michael Vastine, Good Things Come to Those who Wait? Reconsidering Indeterminate and Indefinite Detention as Tools in U.S. Immigration Policy, 5 Intercultural Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 125 (2010). HeinOnline

Michael Vastine, Give me your tired, your poor… and your convicted? Teaching “Justice” to Law Students by Defending Criminal Immigrants in Removal Proceedings, 10 U. Md. L.J. Race Religion Gender & Class 341 (2010). HeinOnline

Michael Vastine, Is Your Client Prejudiced? Litigating Ineffective-Assistance-of-Counsel Claims in Immigration Matters Arising in the Eleventh Circuit, 62 U. Miami L. Rev. 1063 (2008). HeinOnline

Michael Vastine, Being Careful What You Wish For: Divisible Statutes – Identifying a Non-Deportable Solution to a Non-citizen’s Criminal Problem, 29 Campbell L. Rev. 203 (2007). HeinOnline

Additional Publications:

Michael Vastine, Karly Krooth, Tom Moseley, and Sheila Stuhlman, Framing motions to terminate: Relying on the Categorical Approach and generic definition (co-author), published in materials for 2020 AILA Crimes and Immigration Virtual Conference, December 3, 2020

Michael Vastine, Ben Winograd, and Keli M. Reynolds, Hot Topics In Removal: Case Law Updates, published in materials for AILA National Conference 2020

Michael Vastine, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, and Amber Weeks, Ethical Issues in Removal Cases: Pinocchio and His Advisors? (co-author), published in materials for AILA National Conference 2019, Orlando, Florida June 19-23, 2019

Michael Vastine, Understanding Controlled Substances In Light Of Cutting Edge Changes (joint author), published in conference materials of 2019 AILA National Midwinter Conference, Palm Springs, California, January 25, 2019 (Modified and Republished as: Advisory – Controlled Substances and Immigration Consequences, conference materials of American Immigration Lawyers Association South Florida Chapter Conference, Miami Beach, Florida, February 28, 2019)

Michael Vastine, Catch Me If You Can:  Crimes 2018 – Removability and Relief (sole author), published in conference materials of 39th Annual AILA South Florida Chapter Immigration Law Update, Miami Beach, Florida, March 22, 2018

Michael Vastine, Liberty And Due Process For Immigrants In The SCOTUS Lineup, Part I & II (blog postings and video blog analyzing oral arguments in Sessions v. Dimaya and Jennings v. Rodriguez), Think Immigration, American Immigration Lawyers Association, October 2-3, 2017

Michael Vastine, Manuel Rios, and Issac Wheeler, The Most Recent Developments In The Categorical/Modified Categorical Approaches (Circa Fall 2017) (co-author), published in materials for 2017 AILA Fall Conference – Fearless Lawyering: Mobilizing In The New Era Of Removal And Employment-Based Litigation Practice, Portland, Oregon, September 15, 2017

Michael Vastine, Mary Kramer, and Isaac Wheeler, Representing Clients With Criminal Records: A 2017 Update On The Categorical Approach, Circumstance Specific Expansion, And Prolonged Detention, published in materials for 38th Annual AILA South Florida Chapter Immigration Law Update, Miami Beach, Florida, February 3, 2017

Michael Vastine and Charles Shane Ellison, The Ethics of Balancing Humanity and Lawyering: Ethical and cultural challenges involved in zealously representing vulnerable immigrants (co-author), published in materials for AILA National Conference 2016

Michael Vastine and Sui Chung, Taking What Is Yours: Making The Case For Reopening Proceedings To Access Newly Available Relief From Removal Based On Evolving Precedent (co-author), published in materials for 37th Annual AILA South Florida Chapter Immigration Law Update, Miami Beach, Florida, February 5, 2016

Michael Vastine, Mary Kramer, and Isaac Wheeler, Ebbs And Flows:  Ongoing Developments In The Categorical Approach With A Focus On Drugs And Crimes Of Violence, published in materials for 37th Annual AILA South Florida Chapter Immigration Law Update, Miami Beach, Florida, February 5, 2016

Michael Vastine, Kim Hunter and, Thomas K. Ragland, Cancellation of Removal, published in materials for 2015 AILA Fall CLE Conference “Absolute Waivers – in the Land of 10,000 Lakes”

Michael Vastine, ed., The Building Blocks for Successful Agency and Federal Court Appeals: Considering Statutory Interpretation, Rulemaking and the Impact of Changes In Agency Policy (co-author), published in materials for AILA National Conference 2015 (with Adam Rosen and Avantika Shastri, Primary Authors, and Michael Vastine, Contributor and Editor)

Michael Vastine, The Latest on the Categorical Approach (co-author), CLE Materials/Practice Advisory, Annual Conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, June 2014

Michael Vastine, Practice Advisory:  The Road to Donawa: the categorical approach through the lens of Moncrieffe and Descamps, American Immigration Lawyers Association, South Florida Chapter, February 2014

Michael Vastine, The Status of Stand-alone INA §212(h) Waivers in 2013: Can Matter of Rivas Withstand Constitutional Scrutiny?, LexisNexis, 2013 Emerging Issues 7039, July 2013

Michael Vastine, Practice Advisory: “Stand-Alone” INA § 212(h) Waivers, American Immigration Lawyers Association, South Florida Chapter, July 2013

Michael Vastine, The Impact of Chaidez v. United States: The Past, Present, and Future Legacy of Padilla v. Kentucky, LexisNexis, 2013 Emerging Issues 6976, April 23, 2013

Michael Vastine, Trying (and Failing) to find Logic in Chaidez v. United States, www.crImmigration.com (blog essay) (March 4, 2013)

Michael Vastine, Defenses To Charges Of Removability Relating To Drug Offenses, 2006 – Present, AILA Immigration Update CLE Materials (February 8, 2013)

Michael Vastine, Chess Game with Death: Chaidez and Retroactive Application of Padilla v. Kentucky, www.crImmigration.com (blog essay) (November 5, 2012)

Michael Vastine, Emerging Issue Analysis: When, if ever, are non-remunerative drug transfers not aggravated felonies? A review and preview of Moncrieffe v. Holder, LexisNexis, 2012 Emerging Issues 6441 (June 15, 2012)

Michael Vastine, Emerging Issue Analysis: Kawashima v. Holder, What Tax Crimes Can Get an Alien Deported? LexisNexis, 2012 Emerging Issues 6273 (March 29, 2012)

Michael Vastine, All’s Well That Ends Well:  A Discussion Of Defenses To Charges Of Removability Relating To Florida Drug Offenses, 2006 – Present, Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, 17-8 Bender’s Immigr. Bull. 1 (April 15, 2012)

Michael Vastine, Looking on darkness which the blind do see:  An analysis of the Sixth Amendment rights of immigrants and the application of Padilla v. Kentucky in the Florida Courts, Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, 17 Bender’s Immigr. Bull. 356 (Mar. 15, 2012)

  • Immigration Clinic
  • Immigration Law
News & Activities

STU Law News

Professor Vastine’s Service to Immigrants Honored by Catholic Legal Services
St. Thomas Law’s Immigration Clinic Director, Professor Michael Vastine has been recognized, along with the law school’s Immigration Clinic, by the Archdiocese of Miami and awarded the Mother Cabrini Medal for outstanding service to immigrants. The award is inspired by St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, herself an immigrant from Italy, who dedicated her life to serving newly-arrived immigrants. Her life embodied the notion that immigrants are not a problem to be solved, but people to be helped.

Activities and Presentations

Professor Vastine speaks on Think Immigration: SCOTUS Lineup
In the second segment of a special two-part Think Immigration blog post, Mary Kramer, author of Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity: A Guide to Representing Foreign-Born Defendants, and Michael Vastine and Sui Chung, co-authors of AILA’s upcoming book Winning on Paper, report back on the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments held Tuesday on Jennings v. Rodriguez, an important case for immigration lawyers relating to prolonged detention.
Professor Michael Vastine recently presented his articles at the following events:

  • Catholic Legal Services Summer CLE Series in Miami
  • Federal Court: Building the Record for Circuit Appeals, Suing for Return of Your Client and Release from Prolonged Detention After Six Months
  • Beating the Charges, Filing Motions To Terminate, and Recent Developments in the Categorical Approach
  • 2015 Annual Conference of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Washington, D.C.
  • The Building Blocks for Successful Agency and Federal Court Appeals.
  • 2015 American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference (AILA Law Student Division Panel Session) Washington, D.C.
  • Maximizing Opportunities: Charting a Career in Immigration Practice
  • 2015 AILA National Fundamentals of Immigration Law Conference, Miami Beach, Florida.
  • Asylum and Related Claims for Relief