City, local law firm helping Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge in U.S.

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SOUTH BEND, Ind,. --- A local law firm teamed up with the city of South Bend to provide free legal assistance to Ukrainian citizens already in the U.S. and who are seeking Temporary Protected Status, in the wake of the Russian invasion on their home country.

The effort comes just a few days after the city announced $100,000 in funding to support Afghan refugees looking to relocate to the area and is a part of the Welcome South Bend initiative, a nationwide program encouraging immigrants from across the globe to come to the area.

On Thursday, local law firm Barnes & Thornburg and South Bend announced it will be hosting a free workshop next month that will help Ukrainian citizens already here in the United States.

“We’re just grateful to Barnes & Thornburg for offering a pro bono legal services to provide temporary, guidance for temporary protective status for Ukrainians who are fleeing the war zone,” said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.

The law firm will be providing free legal assistance to Ukrainian citizens already in Michiana and seeking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S.

“This is the little, small part I think the legal community here and South Bend region can provide to individuals fleeing the violence and chaos in Ukraine,” said Immigration Attorney Michael Durham, who’s also a Partner at Barnes & Thornburg.

The program that was established by the Department of Homeland Security is available to Ukrainian Citizens who’ve maintained consistent residence in the U.S. since April 11 ,2022.

Barnes & Thornburg believes at least a dozen Ukrainians who’ve come to the Michiana area could qualify for the status.

“I’ve already been contacted by individuals in the local community that have family members that have relocated here,” said Durham. “So, they arrived in the United States either through being paroled in the US without a visa or entering on tourist visa or other classifications. So, I was surprised about the number of individuals that were already here.”

The temporary status is set to help Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge stay safe from their war-torn country, but also allows them work and support themselves in Michiana as well as contribute to the local economy.

“Our community is ready to grow, our businesses are ready to grow, we just need the people and the workers and the more welcoming and the simpler we can get the system to be, the better off we will be,” added Mayor Mueller.

The TPS program for Ukrainians in the U.S. is already underway and is set to last 18 months, until October of 2023, but could be extended depending on circumstances overseas.

The free workshop held June 2 from 1-5 pm at Barnes &Thornburg located at 201 S. Main St., Suite 400.

The TPS program is for Ukrainian citizens already in America, but another nationwide program called "Uniting for Ukraine" allows local entities or individuals to sponsor Ukrainians abroad and help them temporarily relocate to the United States.

You can click here to learn more about the program and becoming a sponsor.

You can also click here for more information about TPS.

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