My name is Paula Schwartzbauer. My first contact with the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota was in 1992. I had just returned to Minnesota from London, where I had been interning at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International. While at Amnesty International, I was told of the excellent human rights work being performed at the University of Minnesota. Upon my return to Minnesota, I contacted Professor David Weissbrodt, Co-Director of the Human Rights Center, and started volunteering immediately. After beginning law school at the University of Minnesota in 1993, I continued to work at the Human Rights Center during my three years of studies until I graduated in 1996. I began by helping Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, Co-Director of the Human Rights Center, create and implement the pilot project of the Partners in Human Rights Education Project, later called the Partners Project, which brought volunteer teachers, lawyers, and community workers together to teach human rights in kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms. During the 1994-96 academic years, I wrote funding proposals and reports for the Human Rights Center, assisted Professor David Weissbrodt by researching and drafting sections of his International Human Rights Law Textbook on the Inter-American and European Human Rights Systems, and organized a conference for the Amnesty International Lawyers Support Network which was held at the University of Minnesota School of Law.
Both summers during law school, I applied for funding which allowed me to work in the field of human rights internationally. During the summer of 1994, I interned with the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ), a non-governmental human rights organization based in Northern Ireland. I know that it was because of the reputation of the Human Rights Center that the Committee on the Administration of Justice chose me as an intern. I prepared case studies and helped draft a report on United Kingdom implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child for submission to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. With financial help from the Human Rights Center, I was able to further assist CAJ by helping the organization raise its concerns before the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva in October, 1994. During the summer of 1995, I was awarded a grant from the Human Rights Center which allowed me to intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at their Branch Office in Ankara, Turkey. With UNHCR, I interviewed Iraqi asylum-seekers and determined their eligibility for international refugee protection. There are very few law students who are given the opportunity to gain international human rights experience without cost to the student or the host organization. I greatly appreciate the opportunities the Human Rights Center provided me.
Through the Human Rights Center, I was exposed to international human rights law and the United Nations and regional human rights systems. I gained knowledge and experience, both domestically and internationally, by researching human rights in an academic setting, teaching human rights in schools, reporting to a United Nations Committee, working for the United Nations, and meeting and learning from human rights experts from around the country as part of the conference I organized. My work with the Human Rights Center exposed me to other organizations locally and internationally with which I continue to have a relationship.
My four years volunteering and working with the Human Rights Center and the international opportunities that the Human Rights Center provided me solidified my interest in dedicating my life to the promotion and protection of human rights. My work with CAJ gave me the experience necessary to lecture on non-governmental organization and state reporting to United Nations treaty-based committees at the University of Minnesota School of Law. It was because of my work with the Human Rights Center that I forged a relationship with Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and later supervised the attorneys who volunteer with that organization to take asylum cases. In 2002, I went on a human rights mission to Peru with Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights to observe and make recommendations on the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The knowledge and connections I made through the Human Rights Center allowed me the opportunity to continue working in human rights after graduation from law school. After gaining experience as an immigration practitioner, I was hired in 1999 to supervise the immigration unit of Centro Legal, a non-profit civil law office for low-income Latinos in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2001, I was asked by Hamline University School of Law to create and teach an immigration law clinic for their students. Finally, as a direct result of the internship I was awarded because of my work at the Human Rights Center, in October 2002 I accepted a position as Researcher on Policing with the Committee on the Administration of Justice.
I believe that my work with the Human Rights Center as well as the work the Human Rights Center inspired me to do has benefited others. I have reached out to young people and exposed them to their rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have reported on the human rights violations people have faced in Northern Ireland. I have assisted Iraqi asylum-seekers find refuge. I have helped hundreds of low-income Latinos reunite their families in Minnesota. For the opportunity to work on behalf of these people, I offer the Human Rights Center my sincere gratitude.