OPINION: An immigration model worth noting

Between the border crisis and election-year politics, immigration has been in the news a lot. While I have no intention of wading into the politics currently at play, I would like to share my experience with the Ukrainian refugee effort here in Alaska, as it’s good to balance out some of the current negativity with a positive immigration story. For the past two years, I have been part of a community sponsorship effort supporting four Ukrainian refugee families as they settle into the community of Juneau.

It’s been an uplifting and positive experience on multiple levels. At the top of the list is knowing that I am part of making a life-changing impact for these families fleeing invasion and war. Next, I’ve enjoyed being part of a project that taps into Juneau’s heart as a caring and giving community. These are rewards I was hoping for and kind of was expecting. But one positive experience that I did not expect was that in dealing with all the paperwork and the many tasks associated with housing, employment, and more; I would have the capable assistance of Catholic Social Services and New Chance Inc.-Ukraine Relief Program. These two organizations have been there for our families every step of the way.

Since Alaska started receiving Ukrainian refugees in 2022, more than 1,000 now call Alaska home, thanks to the collaborative efforts of these two organizations.

Catholic Social Services (CCS) serves as the Replacement Designee of Alaska, providing administration of refugee services with federal Office of Refugee Resettlement funds, as well as the only Reception and Placement refugee program in Alaska. CSS is currently serving more than 725 clients from Ukraine. They worked with them to secure public benefits and refugee benefits while arrivals searched for employment.

Because of the 250% increase in refugees coming to Alaska, CSS reached out to New Chance Inc., an Ukrainian ethnic-based community organization. Two of our families came through New Chance’s association with the federal program, “Uniting for Ukraine.” But regardless of where the family connection was made, New Chance Inc. has provided invaluable assistance to all our families.

Together, through collaboration, these two organizations found 710 job placements or job upgrades for the Ukrainian community. Furthermore, they assisted with the creation of 20 new businesses and helped 27 Ukrainians find college credit or career training.

While these two organizations have been the heavy lifters in integrating Ukrainian refugees into Alaska, they have received help along the way. For example, New Chance Inc., in partnership with Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, found independent housing for 324 households. Altogether, these are impressive numbers that speak to successfully aiding families along the path of self-sufficiency.


As important as housing is getting children into the schools. To this end, the schools in Anchorage, the Mat-Su, and Delta Junction received a large number of students at once, and though it wasn’t easy, they managed to integrate Ukrainian children into the schools. All reports are that the children love their new schools. Providence Family Medicine Center, Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, Delta Junction Family Medical Center, and Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium completed refugee health screenings and connected arrivals with primary care. English language classrooms were filled at the Alaska Literacy Program, Literacy Council of Alaska, Nine Star, and Southeast Regional Resource Center, each giving voice to arrivals.

Let’s not forget that behind the numbers noted above are people seeking relief and community integration. It’s in this regard where sponsor circles (composed of five or more community members) make a big difference. It’s also the place where the rewards are immediate and direct. When they go out on a big boat or hike to the glacier for the first time, their joy is palpable. When their child succeeds in the local chess tournament, you’re as proud as the parents.

Although the creation of sponsor circles is a State Department holdover program designed for the Afghan refugee effort, we found it a useful model for welcoming and integrating Ukrainian refugees into Juneau. It is a model still available through “Uniting for Ukraine.” However, forming a sponsor circle is not necessary. Individuals can sign up online to be a mentor through New Chance Inc. or Catholic Social Services. Want to take a family out fishing or hiking? Want to help with holiday gatherings? Volunteer and become part of an immigration success story.

Kate Troll has been deployed by the Red Cross four times, including dealing with Afghan repatriation after the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan. This led to her interest in sponsoring Ukrainian refugees.

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Kate Troll

Kate Troll, a longtime Alaskan, has over 22 years experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director for United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Conservation Voters. She's been elected to local office twice, written two books and resides in Douglas.