Mon., September 12, 2011 2:03pm (EDT)

Immigration Panel Draws Critics
By Edgar Treiguts
Updated: 3 years ago

ATLANTA   —  
Rallies against Georgia's new immigration law were a mainstay at the state Capitol earlier this year. (GPB file)
Rallies against Georgia's new immigration law were a mainstay at the state Capitol earlier this year. (GPB file)
Controversy flared last week over a Governor Deal appointment to the state’s new immigration enforcement panel. And there are concerns over its potential cost to municipalities.

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—and potentially hand out punishment.

Atlanta immigration lawyer Karen Weinstock says the panel makes local officials vulnerable to frivolous citizen complaints.

“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.”

But Clint Mueller, legislative director for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia says frivolous complaints are what the panel will weed-out.

“That could mean people coming from out-of-state, it could be special interest groups that are coming in trying to look at local governments that want to file a lawsuit. Anybody could, whether they’ve been harmed or not.”

Shawn Hanley is a member of the panel, a former candidate for the state Republican chairmanship and principal member of a government relations and procurement consulting company. He says as for the concerns of some potential costs to municipalities, he acknowledges those. But they won't come from frivolous complaints in front of panel.

“Everybody’s got to make adjustments to a new law. There’s going to be some expenses I’m sure in some areas with some governments.”

The panel holds its first meeting this month.