Virginia, US

A Q&A with Ruth Spillane

Landscape hero image of Fragomen [SanDiego][Associate][RuthSpillane]

Senior Associate Ruth Spillane has been selected to join the board of directors for the San Diego County Bar Foundation (SDCBF), the charitable arm of the San Diego County Bar Association. Through this partnership with the San Diego legal community, SDCBF strives to provide access to justice by investing in sustainable results and advocacy for people and communities in the San Diego region that are impacted by poverty, abuse and discrimination. We asked Ruth about this exciting opportunity during a recent Q&A. 

Q: What made you decide on immigration law as a career?

My father emigrated from Ireland to the US and although it was well before my time, growing up I was keenly aware of people from other places, travel, and what sort of logistics and emotions were behind that journey. During my first year of law school I interned with a Legal Aid immigration attorney and was immediately drawn into a world where I was meeting and helping people from all around the globe. It was deeply rewarding and exciting, even though I was just scratching the surface of our practice area.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an immigration attorney?

Like most of my colleagues, it is hands down the one-on-one impact we experience each day supporting clients through their immigration journey. It is so easy to take for granted the many comforts and conveniences we as Americans experience on a daily basis. To support someone navigating a new country, a new culture, new employment or education opportunities – all while trying to jump through the hoops of a complex and sometimes unforgiving immigration system – is extremely rewarding.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your clients?

COVID-19 certainly did not discriminate in its far-reaching impact on people and industries worldwide and our clients and industry reflected the same. A lot of ubiquitous changes triggered by COVID-19, like remote work, had an impact not only on how our clients do business, but also raised compliance issues for their employees navigating the immigration process. In our new reality of a remote working environment, there were inherent challenges for those immigration requirements involving physical components, including original signatures, physical filings, and in-person document review. There were many times throughout the pandemic where we had to pivot and employ distinctive strategies to ensure clients remained in compliance.

Q: How will the immigration landscape be different in 2021, if at all?

With the change in administration I am very hopeful that some of the stricter immigration policies and changes we previously experienced will be relaxed. While I recognize there will still be challenges and issues to face, I do think we can expect a bit more stability and foresight before proposed changes are implemented. Between the pandemic and numerous regulatory changes in 2020, I think those practicing immigration really hope 2021 will bring more fairness and stability to the immigration landscape.   

Q: What do you hope to accomplish as a member of the San Diego County Bar Foundation Board of Directors?

I have always been passionate about giving back and making a difference in my community. For several years I delivered meals to seniors every Saturday through the Meals on Wheels America program here in San Diego. I also support various local charities and engage in pro bono efforts with Casa Cornelia Law Center. I am hopeful that my experience as a board member with the SDCBF will enable me to continue these efforts of giving back and making a difference in my community.