OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The Oakland Police Department admitted Thursday that it wrongly denied visa applications to two immigrants who were victims of a crime and were eligible for protection.

Police said in a news release that they discovered the error after it was brought to the department’s attention by the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office last week.

Police said they immediately conducted an internal audit reviewing U-visa applications starting from 2007, the first year they were made available.

The U-visa is a non-immigrant, temporary visa that allows a victim who has suffered substantial physical or mental abuse from certain crimes, and who provides information that can help law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crimes, to remain in the U.S. for up to four years.

An immigrant granted a U-Visa will subsequently be given legal status to live and work in the U.S.

Oakland police said their internal audit found that as many as 25 of the 144 rejected certifications in 2017 may have been improperly rejected based on a misapplication of the legal standards governing U-visa certifications.

The Police Department said it “apologizes for any inconvenience to our community members who have been affected.”

The department released a chart showing that the number of U-visa applications it has rejected has increased dramatically in recent years.

The chart shows that only 3 of 79 applications were rejected in 2008 and only 6 of 153 applications were turned down in 2009, but in 2016 136 of 1,205 applications were rejected and last year 144 of 940 were turned down.

Oakland police said people who want to learn more about the U-visa program can visit https://tinyurl.com/OPD-u-visa.

The website in Spanish is https://tinyurl.com/OPD-laVisaU and in Chinese it’s https://tinyurl.com/OPD-ChineseU-Visa.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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