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  • Human Rights Program


The vision of the St. Thomas University Human Rights Institute ("STUHRI") emphasizes research, education, social advocacy, and direct service as the principal areas of its work.

  • Research
  • Education
  • Social Advocacy
  • Direct Service 

For the past decade, the STUHRI has conducted applied research on a broad range of human rights related areas, including economic micro-development, immigration, public benefits, refugee services, social services, and others, as well as on specific legislations and their impact on immigrants. The research has been sponsored by both government and non-governmental organizations in South Florida and beyond. Some of the research projects have included documentation and analysis of the rising tide of xenophobia, the increasing levels of deportation/detention of aliens, and the effects of welfare reform, as well as studies of the incidence and effects of the breakdown of the family unit. Future research will use all the resources (academic, intellectual, and experiential) of Institute staff, the School of Law, and other areas of the University; also, where possible, it will draw in community partners.

The Institute distributes the results of some of this research through publications. Topics of Institute publications have covered: Children, Elderly Immigrants, and the Disabled; The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966; The Rights of the Child; and Due Process for Haitian Refugees. Recently, the Institute began to publish research results in the occasional monographs of the "Research and Policy Papers Series."

The STUHRI conducts regular and occasional educational sessions for its own clients as well as for the public at large. The Institute has offered multiple units of instruction to legal professionals, service providers, and the general public on discrete issues, including: immigration law, domestic violence, housing, individual rights, welfare reform issues, constitutional law, and other legal matters. Formats include briefings, classes, conferences, fairs, seminars, symposia, and workshops. Educational activities also are carried out through publications (see "Research" above). In addition, the Institute initiated and supports the Master of Law (LL.M.) degree in Intercultural Human Rights. This one-year program is designed to offer in-depth instruction on the critical issue of our time: the protection of human dignity across political, social, economic and cultural lines. It requires the completion of 24 credits and offers more than 25 mostly one-week compact courses. The faculty is one of global distinction and includes top-level U.N. experts, outstanding scholars, judges, and practitioners. Students will be prepared for effective research and advocacy in the field of human rights.

The Institute also hosts students performing pro bono services, supervised by the Institute’s staff. Over 50 students from the University, the STU Law School, other law schools around the nation, and high schools in the local area have volunteered many hours to assist the Institute’s staff in serving the community.

Social Advocacy
The Institute has focused on coalition building; it maintains a strong professional relationship with other local service providers, the Governor’s Office, and federal and local government agencies as well as other human rights and legal services organizations. It is well recognized in the community area for its advocacy efforts on behalf of the disenfranchised.

The Institute also has developed recommendations on policy matters and distributed these through the media and to the corresponding agencies involved in the decision-making processes affecting targeted populations.

The Institute, through the work of its founding Executive Director, has been invited to serve as witness by providing testimony before Congressional hearings on domestic immigration-related abuses and human rights violations in Haiti and Cuba. In the late 1990s, its Executive Director was appointed by the United States Secretary of State as the United States’ public delegate before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

The Institute continues to identify human rights issues affecting the local community and addresses them in public fora, including the formulation and dissemination of press releases and other statements to the media. If appropriate, the Institute will address human rights issues on the global and national levels.