Complaint: More than 1,000 agencies fail to comply with state immigration law

Georgia's Immigration Enforcement Review Board has received a complaint that more than 1,000 city and county government agencies are not complying with a key part of the state's new immigration law.

The complaint — filed by D.A. King, an advocate for enforcement of U.S. immigration and employment laws — cites a requirement in House Bill 87 that government employers with two or more employees file annual reports certifying they and their public works contractors are using E-Verify. The federal work authorization program helps confirm newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States by comparing information they submit against federal records.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported on the missing reports June 24. Since then, the state Department of Audits and Accounts has sent letters to about 1,190 government agencies, telling them they failed to file their reports by the Dec. 31 deadline. On the list were cities, counties and downtown development, hospital and housing authorities.

City and county officials blamed the missing reports on unfamiliarity with the law, heavy workloads, staff turnover and other problems. Some — including Sandy Springs — filed their reports after the AJC contacted them. Sandy Springs is enrolled to use E-Verify, records show.

The state's warning letter urged the agencies to file their reports by July 25 or risk losing access to certain state funding, including tens of millions of dollars in state community development block grants. The letter also warned the agencies that the state's immigration enforcement panel could sanction them with fines up to $5,000.

It is unknown, however, how many of the government agencies on the state auditors' list have fewer than two employees and are, therefore, exempt from the reporting requirement. State auditors are telling exempt agencies to inform them they aren't required to report.

A state auditor indicated in an email Thursday that his office has not referred any agencies to authorities for punishment because he is still sifting through the stacks of responses received since the warning letter went out.

Ben Vinson, chairman of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, said it would be difficult for his board to take action concerning so many agencies. But he said he would contact state auditors about King's complaint.

Vinson also said his panel would likely act at a meeting next month to dismiss a separate complaint against Vidalia, a city in rural Toombs County. In his complaint, Michael Dale Smith of Twin City accused Vidalia of giving illegal immigrants safe harbor by allowing them to live, travel and work within the city limits. The city denied those allegations. In June, the board appointed a three-member group to look further into the complaint and report its findings.

"I am going to ask the subcommittee to give a little report," Vinson said, "and I think what you are going to find is that there really was nothing there — that after a few quick questions it was easily determined that the city did not in fact have a sanctuary policy."