January 29, 2019

U.S.News & World Report: Georgia’s Unnoticed, Rarely Used Immigration Review Board #IERB

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U.S. News & World Report
Jan 21, 2019

Georgia’s Unnoticed, Rarely Used Immigration Review Board

The Peach State has had an immigration enforcement panel since 2011, staffed by volunteers with limited immigration expertise.

ATLANTA — Georgia has a state immigration board that, in almost a decade of existence, has only served two people.

The story begins in 2011, when Georgia lawmakers passed HB 87, one of the strictest laws in the U.S. aimed at curbing illegal immigration. But a provision in the law created something unique to the state: the Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB), tasked with investigating complaints about municipalities not enforcing immigration laws.

[ READ: Number of Immigrants in U.S. Illegally Hits Lowest Level Since 2004 ]
The seven-member board, made up of volunteers with little immigration or legal expertise, has the power to recommend sanctions against municipalities that they judge to not be following the law. Sanctions can include removal from Georgia’s list of qualified local governments, fines of $1,000 to $5,000, and loss of state funding, according to the IERB’s rules. Members are appointed for two-year terms by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House of Representatives. The annual budget is $20,000.

People on both sides of the immigration debate do not support the board in its current iteration.

Georgia’s board is a “curious way” to ensure legal compliance, says Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization that advocates for limited immigration. Usually, states give authority to ensure legal compliance to the attorney general or another state agency.

“I don’t think it’s had much effect at all on compliance with the law,” Vaughan says. “It was pretty much set up to fail.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for Project South, a social justice organization based in Atlanta, says the board should not exist.

“From the start, (we’ve) had concerns about due process and fairness issues and really the fact that any vigilante member of the public can go ahead and file a complaint before this body,” she says. “The body has enormous power in terms of being able to subpoena people and documents and fine localities.”

James Balli – the IERB’s chairman – declined to comment, as did board member Rey Martinez. Read the rest here.