LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
As the Trump administration attempts to clamp down on illegal entry into the United States, the route to legal entry has gotten tougher. Last week, another hurdle was added to those seeking visas or green cards. The new policy allows immigration officials more discretion and the ability to deny applicants for minor errors or missing evidence from their application. Previously, people were given a chance to correct those problems, but now that's not always the case. Joining us now to talk about the implications is Pierre Bonnefil. He's an immigration lawyer based in New York. Hello.
PIERRE BONNEFIL: Hello.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does this policy mean for people seeking a green card or a visa?
BONNEFIL: It's a game changer, I would say, because, ultimately, what's happening here is that in the past, as you mentioned, if there were certain little things that were omitted or maybe certain little things that were not correct according to them, you were given an opportunity to fix them. But now the issue is that everybody's afraid that if, for some reason, the application is not perfect in the eyes of the examiner, then it's going to mean denial, and it's going to really throw their lives into a tailspin.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are small errors common on applications? Shouldn't your clients and you, their lawyers, submit scrupulous applications that are correct?
BONNEFIL: Yes, we do submit them, but, sometimes, there is a lot of subjectivity in terms of what may be considered to be something that's minor not by - in the eyes of the officer.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, give me an example.
BONNEFIL: Oh, for instance - oh, gosh. Sometimes, maybe you check the wrong box in something. Maybe you're supposed to check yes, and you check no by mistake. Or maybe the system software that you're using does not really make the changes that you put in, and you send an application in. That in the past would have resulted in what they call a request for evidence or a request for clarification. And that would have been something that we could have done pretty easily.
Now if they turn around and they say, well, you left this out, and it's going - we're going to deny your application, and we're going to send you back to the - sort of the back of the line, that creates a very big problem for people because immigration, as you know, is not only a form that's submitted, but it's somebody's lives that you have in their - in your hands. And it just throws - it just makes you wonder.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: An immigration official told ProPublica, who broke this story, that the new policy aims to cut down on frivolous applications. Is this a big problem in the immigration system, as they seem to suggest?
BONNEFIL: I think it's not, but I think the system - the way it is, we have a very short period of time to submit a lot of documentation. So I think that some people will take a shortcut because the feeling is that, let's just submit whatever we can and let - if it gets stuck, if it gets selected, then we'll deal with the request for evidence later.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Are some people giving up?
BONNEFIL: Some people are. I've heard some of my clients say, maybe we will hire less foreign nationals. Maybe, you know, it's becoming too difficult because, obviously, as you know, there's a cost associated with this, too. And some companies are in a position to take on these costs. Some others are not. So you get to the position where companies may turn around and say, well, we just won't hire anybody, and we won't care about the best and the brightest. We will just go forward and not do any of these applications in the future.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Immigration lawyer Pierre Bonnefil, thank you so much for speaking with us.
BONNEFIL: You're very welcome. Thank you. Have a great day.
(SOUNDBITE OF RENE AUBRY'S "LA GRANDE CASCADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.