In 2011, Georgia passed HB 87, creating the controversial Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB). The seven-member board, comprised primarily of volunteers with little knowledge on immigration law, was tasked to investigating complaints about municipalities not enforcing immigration laws. It was empowered to not only probe complaints from the public but also issue subpoenas, place witnesses under oath and administer fines.
According to an article in US News & World Report, the IERB had only served two people in almost a decade of existence. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2019-01-21/why-does-georgia-have-an-immigration-review-board
Of the 20 complaints, all but one came from an anti-immigration activist, D.A. King. The Board also became relevant in last year’s campaign for governor of Georgia.
It would appear that the IERB was doomed to fail since its inception, but things started to go downhill quick in 2018 when then-Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, who was candidate for governor, filed a complaint with the IERB against the city of Decatur, alleging that the city was creating sanctuaries for criminals. He was accused of filing a baseless claim just to earn votes from conservatives. But Decatur did not sit back and allow the complaint to fizzle on its own. Decatur fired back with a lawsuit “alleging the board violated the state’s transparency laws”. The city settled and the board agreed to make its proceedings more public as well as pay the City $12,000 in legal fees. Moreover, both the chairman and another longtime board member resigned after being asked about overstaying of their term.
The IERB received much criticism from concerned citizens and civil rights activists regarding the necessity of this board’s broad power as well as the potential for abuse and due process violations. Lawmakers eventually began to question whether the board’s time was up. Today, the measure to disband the IERB which was approved unanimously by lawmakers was signed into law by the governor of Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp.
The lesson: public opinion and activism serves a purpose – but the best way to effect change is through the filing of lawsuits, a tool that has been the backbone of our country’s jurisprudence and continues to shape the landscape in our state every day.