Anchorage wins grant to promote inclusiveness for immigrants, new arrivals

Anchorage has received a $29,500 grant for initiatives aimed at better integrating immigrants, refugees and newcomers into the community, the Berkowitz administration said Tuesday.

The "Welcoming America" campaign, which Anchorage joined in 2014, encourages U.S. cities to embrace new arrivals on economic and social levels. Mara Kimmel, an immigration attorney and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz's wife, has taken up the campaign as one of her main initiatives.

In an interview Tuesday, Kimmel said the grant will go toward two big projects. The first will involve reaching out to communities of immigrants and newcomers to ask how the city can adopt more inclusive policies, Kimmel said.

The second, she said, will focus on economic research and figuring out obstacles to entrepreneurship.

Kimmel said the mayor's office will also conduct its own research on what she called "brain waste" -- for example, refugees who obtained advanced degrees in their home country but are not working in that field in Anchorage.

"When you've got people in the community who are underemployed, not being able to work in the areas they're trained and educated in, that's a huge cost," Kimmel said.

Immigrants make up about 9 percent of Anchorage's population, said Kimmel, who co-founded the Alaska Institute for Justice, a nonprofit immigration law firm and language center. She said the city resettles about 150 refugees each year.


Of the total grant, $12,500 comes from the New York-based Partnership for a New American Economy, a bipartisan group focused on immigration reform, and Welcoming America, a nonpartisan nonprofit in Decatur, Georgia. Wells Fargo & Co. and the Alaska Department of Commerce and Community and Economic Development provided matching funds.

In September, members of the Berkowitz administration helped coordinate a weeklong series of events aimed at coinciding with the national "Welcoming Cities" campaign. Dozens of other organizations and businesses are listed as partners in the effort, including the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.