Faith & Service

Alumna honors her heritage by aiding next generation of immigrants

By Drew Menard, October 31, 2018

As a daughter of immigrants, Rachel Thompson, a 2012 graduate of Liberty University School of Law, has always been fascinated with her parents’ individual journeys to the U.S. Her father came from Jamaica, and her mother fled apartheid in South Africa. They instilled in her an appreciation for the freedom that Americans enjoy every day.

“My dad always pushed us to work hard. He wanted us to experience freedom in being able to be whatever we wanted to be, but he knew that could only come from hard work in school and a drive to succeed,” Thompson said.

Her dad is a full-time pastor and has also had a long career in the transportation industry. Thompson’s mother is a nurse. “My mom basked daily in the political freedom that the U.S. afforded. She reminded us that we could do anything we wanted because we are blessed with a government with freedom as part of the very fabric of its foundation. She never wanted us to take that for granted.”

Her mother became a U.S. citizen when Thompson was in the 10th grade.

“I probably didn’t know it at the time, but my mom’s naturalization ceremony was a defining moment for me,” Thompson said. “I was really struck by her emotions as she waved the American flag, decked out in red, white, and blue. I was so happy for her, but more than anything I wanted to go back and see the journey that she took to get here. I wanted to help people, like my mom, navigate through the immigration chaos to achieve their lifelong dreams of belonging to a country that is the epitome of freedom.”

Because of her background, Thompson knew from an early age that she wanted to help immigrants as a lawyer. In high school, she fell in love with the Hispanic culture after a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. That led her to study Spanish business as an undergraduate before coming to Liberty Law. Over the course of her education, Thompson studied abroad three times.

Today, Thompson is living out her calling as an attorney with Poarch Law in Salem, Va., a firm that specializes in immigration and adoption. She manages removal and deportation cases and also represents employers who want to bring overseas talent to the U.S., financiers looking to invest in American interests, foreigners who are engaged to American citizens, and American families hoping to adopt children from other nations.

“I love the diversity of what we do because it requires litigating at times, heavy brief writing at times, creative thinking at times, and client interaction all of the time,” she said. “As the daughter of immigrants, it means the world knowing what my parents had to go through and their sacrifice to make it to the U.S. and put me through school. I feel like I now have the opportunity to pay it forward to immigrants I meet every day by giving them wise, honest counsel.”

Thompson’s work earned her the 2016 Alison Parker Young Professional award from DePaul Community Services. The award is named in honor of a Roanoke, Va., television reporter who was slain while on the job in 2015. This year, the Federal Bar Association presented her with the Immigration Law Section Younger Lawyer of the Year award.

“It means so much,” Thompson said. “Behind every good young lawyer is an excellent mentor. Winning this award is definitely an affirmation of my hard work. It is also a reflection and appreciation of how much my mentor, Christine Poarch, has poured into me and taught me.”

Thompson worked as an intern with Poarch Law during her third year of law school.

She said Liberty’s professors also went above and beyond their classroom instruction to mentor both her and her husband, Bradley, a fellow 2012 Liberty Law graduate.

“We are both so grateful to each of our professors for not only teaching us the law but also going a step further and investing in our personal and professional lives,” she said.

Their professors encouraged them to not only excel in their chosen area of the law but to always treat it as a calling from God.

“I get so much joy from doing what I love,” Thompson said. “I am a witness that He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or imagine.”

Forty-seven years ago, Liberty University’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, formed a new college to Train Champions for Christ who would impact the world in all fields. At the time, many of the programs that we now offer — such as aviation and law — were only a dream. But today, thousands of alumni from a broad range of degree programs are spread throughout the globe, championing the causes of others. They are the voice for the voiceless. They are bringing healing to the hurting. And they are fighting for the oppressed.

Read more inspiring stories from graduates who are changing lives daily by following God’s calling wherever it leads them — in the true champion tradition of Liberty University:

Know more Champions for Christ who are fulfilling the vision? Email us at news@liberty.edu or connect with us on social media using #WeTheChampions.

Read more Champion stories at Liberty.edu/Champions.

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