Days before Republican primary, Immigration Board sides with Casey Cagle against DecaturLt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign for governor got an assist on Saturday from the state’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board, which has sided with the Lt. Governor in his complaint alleging Decatur is a sanctuary city.
The board released a copy of its decision on Decatur’s case to a local news outlet on Saturday but won’t vote on the matter until June 27.
City Attorney Bryan Downs said the intention of releasing this information four days before the May 22 primary election is clear.
“The timing of this proposed decision … is not a coincidence,” Downs said. “In fact, Chairman Shawn Hanley provided a copy of the proposed decision to at least one press outlet, in direct violation of the IERB’s own rule that information in pending cases cannot be disclosed to the public. Apparently, Chairman Hanley wanted to ensure the public knew about this preliminary decision immediately, even though it won’t be voted on until the end of June.”
The decision could have implications for other cities with similar policies. The IERB said that Decatur needs to repeal its policy regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or risk being stripped of state funding.
Cagle had the information on Saturday as well and began cheering the decision on his campaign website. The Lt. Governor has made his campaign against Decatur’s policy regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement a part of his gubernatorial campaign.
“While other states such as California actively promote sanctuary cities, today’s decision shows that the state of Georgia will not tolerate these illegal policies,” Cagle said on his website. “I have fought to enact some of the toughest state laws in the nation to combat illegal immigration, which poses a burden to taxpayers and a threat to our communities. As governor, I will put cities on notice that they must work cooperatively with federal immigration agents to deport illegal immigrants who have committed additional crimes – or else there will be serious consequences.”
The IERB also has some apparent conflicts of interest. Hanley was critical of Decatur’s policy in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution but would not recuse himself. Two other members of the board are appointed by Cagle. They did not recuse themselves either. One board member, Phil Kent, recused himself after video footage surfaced of him praising Cagle’s beef with the city of Decatur and calling the Lieutenant governor a winner.
The city of Decatur raised these concerns, but they were ignored. The city also sued the IERB for violating the state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws. Those lawsuits are still pending.
Decatur is not a sanctuary city and Decatur’s City Commission has flatly refused to adopt “sanctuary city” status as other cities around the country have done. A resident requested the city do so at the Dec. 19, 2016 City Commission meeting. Mayor Patti Garrett said the city could not do this, citing state law. The City Commission received a similar request during public comments at a meeting in February 2017 and Garrett reiterated the city’s position, saying that the city would be at risk of losing state funds if it adopted a “sanctuary city” policy.
The Dustin Inman Society, a hardline anti illegal-immigration group that has filed most of the complaints received by the IERB board, says Cagle’s complaint is without merit.
The IERB held an hours-long hearing on May 15 regarding Decatur’s case. City officials provided evidence in support of its argument that its policy is not a violation of state law.
Cagle has accused the city of Decatur of violating state law prohibiting “sanctuary cities” because of the city’s decision to put a longstanding policy in writing regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The city said it does not detain immigrants without a valid warrant from ICE and never has. Officers who violate the policy could face disciplinary action.
The IERB seemed interested in the role advocacy groups played in getting the city to put this policy regarding cooperation with ICE in writing.
“Sometime in September of 2017, what Decatur referred to in testimony as a ‘loose coalition of groups’ met with the Decatur Mayor and City Manager,” the IERB wrote. “For background information only, while one group was identified at the May 15 hearing as ‘Hate Free Decatur’, the identities of the other members were not specified but ‘Project South’, the ‘Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights’ , and the ‘Georgia Not1More Coalition’ are identified by Move-On.org as the groups who presented the written ‘policy’ to Decatur. Regardless of individual identity, it is clear that the ‘loose coalition’ shared a common vehement opposition to federal immigration laws and a desire to have local jurisdictions pass written policies refusing to cooperate with federal law enforcement. It was after meeting with this ‘loose coalition’ that Decatur, for the first time in its history, determined a need to adopt a written policy prohibiting cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (‘ICE’) detainers/administrative warrants.”
Downs said the IERB ignored the sworn testimony of Police Chief Mike Booker and instead chose to focus on the role of these advocacy groups.
“The review panel puts great weight on what advocacy groups contacted city officials (evidence not presented at the hearing), but has no interest in the actual sworn testimony of Police Chief Mike Booker, a career law enforcement officer, that this written policy memorializes what has been in place for decades — based on his understanding of the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution — and that not a single one of his officers had concerns about the policy,” Downs said.
The city plans to issue a formal statement on Monday.
Here’s the full text of the IERB ruling: