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Decatur asks a judge to throw out Immigration Board’s decision against city

Crime and public safety Decatur slideshow

Decatur asks a judge to throw out Immigration Board’s decision against city

City Attorney Bryan Downs File Photo by Mariann Martin

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City Attorney Bryan Downs presented evidence during the May 15 Immigration Enforcement Review Board Hearing which was attended by several city officials, including Mayor Patti Garrett (left) and Police Chief Mike Booker (right). Photo by Mariann Martin

The legal wrangling over Decatur’s policy regarding immigration suspects continues.

The city now wants a judge to throw out a decision by the state immigration board finding Decatur violated the state’s sanctuary cities law. City Attorney Bryan Downs said the decision can not stand because it was reached via meetings held in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

“The amended lawsuit specifically asks the Superior Court to exercise its authority under the Open Meetings Act to vacate and nullify these recent decisions made by the [Immigration Enforcement Review Board] subcommittee in closed meetings outside of the public eye,” Downs said. “The City of Decatur will continue to defend against the politically-motivated, ideologically-based IERB proceeding, which is being overseen by individuals who have shown clear bias and who have prejudged the actual facts.  In the meantime, the IERB’s continued practice of conducting business in secret must be stopped.”


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The request was added to a lawsuit the city filed against the board, one of two filed in April alleging Open Meetings Act and Open Records Act violations.

Board Chair Shawn Hanley said the city is wasting time instead of simply changing its policy regarding immigration suspects to comply with the board’s order. Decatur is at risk of losing state funding if it does not comply.

“It is sad when any entity would rather fight a process than defend their position regarding a policy that effects every taxpayer citizen of Decatur,” Hanley said. “More time has been spent by the city of Decatur attacking and trashing the IERB rather than reexamining their own policies. These frivolous allegations will be defended in court. Many of these accusations are just created fantasies that seem to be dreamt up in order to deflect attention from Decatur Immigration policy. I hope the citizens of Decatur examine the facts of this case and how these facts effect every citizen and every family of Decatur. The future of these families should be protected through good public policy not frivolous court filings designed to distract the good people of Decatur from what really matters……their safety and well-being.”

The state Immigration Enforcement Review Board is handling a complaint filed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle against the city in November. Cagle contends the city is violating a state law that forbids sanctuary cities. The city is not a sanctuary city, however, and city leaders have flatly rejected calls from residents to adopt this status.

What Cagle was referring to was the city’s decision put in writing a longstanding policy regarding cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Cagle is running for governor and will face Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a run off on July 24. The lieutenant governor has made his case against Decatur an issue on the campaign trail.

City officials have accused the IERB of giving a boost to his campaign. Cagle received a preliminary ruling from the Immigration Enforcement Review Board supporting his complaint on Saturday, May 19, but it won’t actually be voted on until June. Attorney Downs and other city officials said the decision was a boon to Cagle because it was disseminated to the press just days before the May 22 Republican primary.

City officials blasted that decision. Police Chief Mike Booker invited Cagle to coffee to discuss his concerns.

First Amended Complaint.OMA case.06-07-18

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