By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

It appears Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB) has accomplished very little since its creation in 2011. At that time, Georgia, passed one of the strictest immigration laws in the U.S., which included the creation of IERB. The primary responsibility of the IERB is to investigate complaints about cities not enforcing state immigration laws.

The IERB is a seven-member board, who has the power to recommend sanctions against municipalities that they judge to not be following the law. Sanctions can include removal from Georgia’s list of qualified local governments, fines of $1,000 to $5,000, and loss of state funding.

Even though any Georgia resident who is a registered voter can file a complaint, only two have done so - D.A. King, an anti-illegal immigration activist in the Atlanta area, and former Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. Between the two, they have filed 22 complaints.

The most newsworthy complaint was filed in November 2017, by Cagle, a candidate for governor, who accused the City of Decatur of not cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In response, Decatur filed lawsuits challenging the IERB’s compliance with state transparency laws and term limits. The IERB settled with Decatur on January 8, 2019.

The IERB’s first and only fine was $1,000 against the City of Atlanta. In this case, in August 2016, King alleged that Atlanta did not use SAVE while renewing the Atlanta Historical Society’s nonprofit business license. The city paid a $1,000 fine in 2017.

King was behind two complaints in 2012. King alleged that DeKalb County (greater Atlanta) violated state law by not using the federal SAVE program to ensure people applying for public benefits are legally in the U.S. The IERB voted to fine the county $5,000, but it dismissed that fine after the county assured the IERB it would use SAVE as required. King also accused Atlanta of violating state law by allowing people to use Mexican matricula consular ID cards in city government transactions. The IERB dismissed that complaint after the Atlanta City Council repealed an ordinance at the heart of the dispute.

There are concerns about the board’s members, who have little immigration expertise. James Balli, the chairman, is a lawyer who focuses on local governmental relations. The other five board members are two mayors, a former county commission chairman, a county sheriff and chairman of one of the Georgia Republican Party’s congressional districts. The remaining board seat is vacant.

The IERB has had issues with members serving longer than they are appointed for. Members are supposed to be appointed to serve terms of two years with the option to be reappointed for an additional term. However, two members, who were appointed in 2011, served until 2018 when the City of Decatur filed lawsuits against the IERB in response to Cagle’s complaint. There is one current member, who has served since 2011.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at