#WeCanWednesday: Sarah Thompson

January 2, 2019

New Year, New Us.

We’re back with another installment of #WeCanWednesday, where we highlight volunteers, staff, and community members who contribute to a more just and equitable region for all. Please meet the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties’ Border Litigation Project Legal Fellow, Sarah Thompson. Sarah joined our team in September. She passed the California Bar on her first try (quite an accomplishment if you consider that only 40% passed the state bar last year). In addition to her invaluable immigrant rights work, she helped us to increase voter turnout during the midterm elections. Read about Sarah in her own words.

Sarah Thompson

Name, title, and primary areas of focus.

Sarah Thompson, Border Litigation Project Fellow, focusing on FOIA and civil rights litigation primarily against U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with the broader goal of holding the agency accountable for abusive practices that harm vulnerable migrant populations.

What drives you to do the work you do?

Many of my personal and professional experiences drive me to do this work. I have have lived in several different areas on both the northern and southern U.S. borders, and my time in those regions has opened my eyes to the absolute impunity with which federal immigration agencies operate in those spaces, and how harmful that can be. The injustices I’ve seen, as well as the horrors of the news cycle, motivate me to keep up the fight. Luckily, my drive also comes from the people I’ve met along the way — my clients, friends and family, colleagues, and community partners. They have taught me to cherish our victories, even the small ones, and they have given me hope for the future.

What do you think San Diego and Imperial counties will look like if/when you are effective with your work?

I am new to San Diego, so I generally defer to longer-term residents, advocates, and community members on this question. But I hope to contribute to building a region (that includes San Diego and Imperial counties) where people can live freely with their family and in their chosen communities, without the persistent threat of violence and discrimination at the hands of governmental actors.

How can others support the work you do to help get us closer to a more equitable region and the world?

The best way to support our work here in San Diego and Imperial counties is to VOTE and to encourage your eligible friends/family/neighbors to vote also. Volunteer with voter empowerment efforts, help people register, drive them to the polls. Achieving a more equitable society requires many different modes of advocacy, but mobilizing communities to vote, particularly historically disenfranchised communities, is a really important piece. Our legal work and advocacy efforts have a much broader impact when we elect people who will support policies and legislation that will move us toward a more equitable region.

Do you have a favorite quote?

One of my amazing law school professors, Alina Das, once said “the law can’t save us, but it can buy us time to save ourselves.” These are the words that I use to guide my vision of the role of civil rights litigation plays in the broader struggle for social justice.

What’s your favorite amendment?

Part of me wants to say the Thirteenth Amendment, since it formally ended slavery in this country. However, the unfortunate reality is that involuntary servitude in many forms continues to exist here, particularly within our criminal justice system (Ava DuVernay made a fantastic and chilling documentary, 13th, on this topic). The truth is that we probably get more done with the Fifth/Fourteenth Amendment due process clauses and the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search & seizure. Am I allowed to list four amendments?