South Bend teams up with local law firm to help Ukrainian refugees

Published: May. 5, 2022 at 6:50 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The law office of Barnes & Thornburg is teaming up with the City of South Bend to provide legal assistance for Ukrainian who are seeking Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, and tens of millions have been forced to flee their homes or have been displaced. According to the UNHCR, 90% of Ukrainians displaced are women and children.

There are strict requirements for refugees to be eligible for Temporary Protected Status or TPS, and the legal process can be confusing, time-consuming, and expensive.

“The South Bend community will embrace the Ukrainians who are fleeing from the terrible conflict in their home country, and so, no doubt that we will embrace Ukrainians, but we also need to look at other countries too over time and make sure that we are welcoming to those who are coming here for a better life and share a lot of the values that we share. Share faith traditions, share the value of freedom, and the American Dream where you work hard, and you can get ahead. So, these are things that we should embrace, and these are American Values because America was founded on immigrants,” said South Bend Mayor James Mueller.

Standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, Barnes & Thornburg is offering pro bono legal services for Ukrainians already in the U.S. and those currently fleeing from the war zone.

Ukrainian refugees permitted into the U.S. will have 18 months of Temporary Protected Status, which runs from April 19, 2022, to October 19, 2023. Refugees could be granted asylum if conditions in Ukraine have not improved after 18 months, and others could be eligible to become united states citizens.

“Obviously, Ukraine is on the front lines of a battle for democracy and freedom, and just horrifying what is going on over there. So, just being out of that war zone is great for personal security, but then legal status, our immigration system is confusing, it’s a mess, and that’s why you need lawyers to help figure it out. So, Barnes & Thornburg stepping up to provide that guidance is a great help for our neighbors.”

TPS is solely for Ukrainians already in the united states before April 19. A separate program, Uniting for Ukraine, is working to assist Ukrainian refugees currently outside the US but are looking to seek protection here in the states. They would have to be sponsored by an employer or family member (a U.S. citizen).

Refugees would receive a card from the government to be granted employment authorization to work in the US. Barnes & Thornburg will help with the legal challenges that arise from the complex immigration policies in the United States.

Around a dozen people have already reached out to Barnes & Thornburg in hopes of relocating to the South Bend area, and many more are expected to follow.

Barnes & Thornburg has said they may do the workshop again if demand is high. The law firm would like to encourage other local lawyers to help represent Ukrainian refugees.

The workshop will occur on June 2 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Barnes & Thornburg office in downtown South Bend (201 S. Main St.).

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