The Odess Theater is seen on May 22, 2019, on the campus of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which operates the former home of Sheldon Jackson College. (Photo by Flickr user Jasperdo/Creative Commons)

The Odess Theater is seen on May 22, 2019, on the campus of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which operates the former home of Sheldon Jackson College. (Photo by Flickr user Jasperdo/Creative Commons)

Sitka Fine Arts Camp withdraws immigration lawsuit after feds reconsider issue

A key employee for one of Alaska’s major arts organizations has received a federal immigration visa, ending a lawsuit over the case.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp is withdrawing its federal immigration lawsuit after immigration officials approved the visa needed for its technical theater director.

Attorney Nicholas Olano filed a request for voluntary dismissal Wednesday, less than a month after he filed suit on behalf of the camp, a 50-year-old institution that conducts courses on the grounds of the former Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka.

“Things are back again to where they should be,” he said by phone on Friday.

The lawsuit involved Denush Vidanapathirana, who runs programs for the camp and is in charge of the Sitka School District’s multimillion-dollar performing arts center.

Vidanapathirana, who holds a Sri Lankan passport, needed a visa to continue working in Sitka, but the federal government initially determined that the theater manager’s skills didn’t meet the standard for an H-1B visa, given to people who have special technical skills.

Sitka Fine Arts Camp sued, appealing that decision, and it was reversed quickly. H-1B lawsuits are relatively uncommon in Alaska; they’re more common in the Lower 48, where high-tech companies frequently seek international employees.

“I think the (assistant U.S. attorney) did something magical because they didn’t even answer or respond (to the lawsuit),” Olano said, “but the case got reopened.”

Olano said Vidanapathirana is already back on the job.

• James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. This article originally appeared online at Alaska Beacon, an affiliate of States Newsroom, is an independent, nonpartisan news organization focused on connecting Alaskans to their state government.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 20

Here’s what to expect this week.

A U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka helicopter hovers over Sitka Sound during routine hoist training. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Lt. Cmdr Wryan Webb)
Yakutat-bound charter flight missing from Juneau

Flight departed from Juneau on Saturday with three people aboard, according to U.S. Coast Guard.

President Biden at the White House on July 3. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
President Joe Biden drops out of race, scrambling the campaign for the White House

Withdraws under pressure from fellow Democrats; endorses Vice President Kamala Harris to take on Trump.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, July 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Buttons on display at a campaign event Monday, July 8, 2024, in Juneau, urge supporters to vote against Ballot Measure 2, the repeal of Alaska’s current election system. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Ranked-choice repeal measure awaits signature count after Alaska judge’s ruling

Signatures must be recounted after judge disqualifies almost 3,000 names, citing state law violations.

The offices of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development in Juneau are seen on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska demographers predict population drop, a switch from prior forecasts

For decades, state officials have forecast major population rises, but those haven’t come to pass.

Neil Steininger, former director of the state Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the House Finance Committee at the Alaska State Capitol in January of 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Neil Steininger, former budget director for Gov. Dunleavy, seeking District 1 Juneau Assembly seat

Downtown resident unopposed so far for open seat; deadline to file for local races is Monday.

A mother bear and a cub try to get into a trash can on a downtown street on July 2, 2024. Two male bears were euthanized in a different part of downtown Juneau on Wednesday because they were acting aggressively near garbage cans, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Two black bears in downtown Juneau euthanized due to aggressive behavior around people

Exposed garbage, people insistent on approaching bears contribute to situation, official says

Most Read