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City and Barnes & Thornburg partner to offer legal assistance for Ukrainian refugees

Gemma DiCarlo
Immigration attorney Michael Durham speaks at a press conference about pro-bono legal aid for Ukrainians on Thursday, May 5.

Earlier this week, the city of South Bend announced a partnership with La Casa de Amistad to provide legal aid to Afghan refugees. Now, the city has announced another partnership to aid Ukrainian refugees.

The city and the law firm Barnes & Thornburg will host a pro-bono workshop next month for Ukrainian citizens seeking temporary protected status (TPS) in the U.S.

TPS expires after 18 months and doesn’t lead to lawful permanent residency, but its beneficiaries aren’t removable from the U.S. and are able to seek employment authorization.

Michael Durham, an immigration attorney and partner in Barnes & Thornburg’s South Bend office, said he’s already been contacted by people in the community whose family members settled in the area after fleeing Ukraine.

“I was surprised at the number of individuals who were already here,” he said. “One of my concerns is that we’d announce this program and work on it and have nobody show up, but it looks like there will be turnout.”

He said if there’s high demand, the firm will consider holding a second workshop or consulting on an individual basis.

In order to be eligible for TPS, Ukrainian citizens must have continuous residence in the U.S. since April 11, and continuous physical presence since April 19.

The partnership is part of South Bend’s new involvement in the Welcoming America network, a nonprofit that helps local governments and other entities ensure smooth transitions for immigrants.

“We know that Ukraine is at the front lines of our fight for democracy and freedom,” South Bend Mayor James Mueller said. “I know South Bend will be welcoming with open arms to Ukrainian neighbors and we’ll try to make that adjustment as smooth as possible.”

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

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.