Inna Simkovsky ’98 Dedicated to Finding Justice for Immigrant Communities in Central Ohio
“Being part of a person’s naturalization process, especially the swearing-in ceremony is a powerful and moving experience,” Inna Simakovsky ’98 recounts. “It always brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of my parents’ oath ceremony over twenty-five years ago.” As a young girl, she immigrated with her family in 1976 to the United States from the former Soviet Union. Soon after arriving in the United States, the family moved to Columbus, Ohio to be closer to relatives who preceded them.
Later Inna earned a bachelor's degree in International Studies from the University of Cincinnati. At Moritz, she was president of the International Law Society. Inna also spent two summers studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia; and received the Foreign Language Studies Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education. After graduation, she worked for a large firm that was heavily involved in international trade and governmental regulation.
Since June 2004, these personal and professional experiences have informed her work as the supervising attorney for Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Inna leads the legal arm of CRIS, a nonprofit organization which offers interpretation, education, employment, and other support services to immigrant and refugee populations in Central Ohio.
Inna plays with her sons Isaac and Simon
At CRIS, she enjoys the personal contact she has with clients. The legal department currently serves more than 400 clients each month. The number is daunting for a department of two attorneys and a paralegal. To help shoulder the load, Inna recruits students from the Moritz College of Law. Last year, four Moritz students worked for CRIS. This year, Inna hopes to increase the number of students working at CRIS to seven.
Sara Bergene ’08 currently works at CRIS during the school year and was a Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) fellow at the organization last summer. She says, “My experience at CRIS has been amazing. Inna and the staff give clerks lots of responsibilities, miles beyond the dreaded ‘copy and file’ experience. It’s an open and supportive environment, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any student interested in hands-on experience with Immigration Law.”
“I believe in the PILF mission and their dedication to allowing students to pursue non-traditional legal experience,” Inna asserts. “When I was at Moritz, PILF was just getting started. I’m amazed at what it’s become, and I am happy the college is increasing its awareness of public interest opportunities.”
“She has dedicated her life to helping make equal access to justice available for some of the community’s most vulnerable residents,” says Jane McGrew, founder of CRIS, of Inna. “Her enthusiastic leadership of CRIS’ immigration legal services has given the program its reputation for excellence.”
With Moritz graduates like Inna Simakovsky at the vanguard of public
interest, the ideal of equal justice comes closer to realization each