Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg, July 19, 2011
Georgia mayors, county commissioners and even business-license clerks may face $5,000 fines from a panel of state-sanctioned volunteers empowered to investigate complaints about compliance with a new immigration law.
The board will be able to subpoena witnesses and strip funding from public bodies it finds have violated the law and levy fines against governments and individuals.
The first-of-its-kind Immigration Enforcement Review Board is part of a law that took effect July 1, making Georgia one of six states that have taken immigration enforcement duties into their own hands. To date, the law has provoked a federal lawsuit, a court injunction and a shortage of fruit and vegetable pickers in Georgia’s harvest season. The enforcement board’s job is to keep government officials in line.
There were 425,000 illegal immigrants in Georgia in 2009, or 4.3 percent of the state’s population then, according to the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center. The 325,000 of them who worked composed about 6.5 percent of the labor force.
The new review board will examine complaints from registered Georgia voters about public bodies’ failure to use either the E-Verify system or the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database.