Over the past few years, statehouses around the U.S. have tried to rein in cities deemed too friendly to undocumented immigrants. Georgia is the only state that’s created an independent board with one specific mission: Punishing cities that aren’t doing enough to crack down on illegal immigration, reports Stateline. Typically, that responsibility falls to state attorneys general. In Georgia, residents can file a complaint against any city or county they judge to be breaking state immigration law. Until a recent case against the small liberal town of Decatur, all but one of the complaints had come from one private citizen, an avowed anti-illegal immigration activist who’s made this his life’s calling.
Then Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, filed a complaint accusing Decatur of violating state immigration law as he was running for governor. “Liberal politicians in the City of Decatur are trying to put the interests of criminal illegal aliens ahead of our safety — and I will not allow it!” Cagle wrote. Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board was created seven years ago, when the state passed one of the nation’s strictest immigration laws. Most of its members are not attorneys or immigration experts. All are volunteer political appointees, which in a red state makes it a majority Republican board. It investigates alleged wrongdoing, subpoenas witnesses and hears testimony. It has the power to recommend sanctions against municipalities and withhold millions in state funding from them as punishment. So far, it has levied just one fine, $1,000 against Atlanta. A handful of small cities have been forced to spend time and money defending themselves against accusations. “The Georgia board is an example of what not to do, rather than a model for something effective,” said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group that favors limited immigration to the U.S.