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Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 5:00am

Immigration Panel Stirs Controversy

This week, controversy flared over a Governor Deal appointment to the state’s new immigration enforcement panel. And there are concerns from some over how the panel will go about its business.

A portion of Georgia’s new immigration law creates the Immigration Enforcement Review Board—a seven member panel appointed by state elected officials.

The members include a county sheriff, former lawmakers, and Phil Kent—seen by some as a hostile anti-immigration advocate.

The panel has the power to investigate citizen complaints made against city, county and state officials over immigration law enforcement.

Immigration lawyer Karen Weinstock with the Atlanta firm Siskind Susser says the panel makes local officials vulnerable to frivolous citizen complaints.

“They can go after state governments and officials even without any evidence that they broke the law. That’s the sad part of it.”

And ultimately, Weinstock says the process could strain local budgets. “If a complaint is filed against you, even if it has no merit, you still have to waste time and money that a lot of counties don’t have.”

State Republican Representative Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City told Bloomberg News earlier this year that citizen oversight is critical, and that the board is a compromise.

A spokesman for the governor says the new board will not decide cases, but only look into complaints.

The panel holds its first meeting this month.

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