The city of Decatur and its attorneys have reached a settlement with the Georgia immigration board after suing the panel alleging it violated the state’s open meetings and open records laws.
The original lawsuit against the state’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board came as then Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle filed a complaint with the board against the city.
Cagle alleged Decatur was creating sanctuaries for criminals because of its policy that prohibits city police from arresting, detaining or transporting anyone based solely on a detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Such detainers are requests to hold people for up to 48 hours beyond when they would normally be released so the agency can pick them up and seek to deport them.
The city’s lawsuits claimed the board, which was investigating Cagle’s complaint, met irregularly with no public notice, did not provide summaries of its proceedings and withheld pending case documents that should be made public, including its own written decisions and submissions from people who appear before the board.
According to the settlement released this week, the IERB is adopting practices to make their proceedings more transparent and in compliance with the state’s open meetings laws. In addition to devising a regular meeting schedule, the board will publish meeting summaries and make records in IERB cases public. Downs said for more than seven years the cases had been withheld.
A May 19 proposed opinion by the review panel that alleged Decatur violated state law barring “sanctuary policies” is also null and void. Under that opinion, Decatur faced possibly losing state funding.
City officials consistently denied the “sanctuary city” allegations, and said Decatur police had not ever received a detainer request from federal immigration employees.
For its part of the agreement, the city will amend Decatur police’s non-detainer policy by removing a provision that indicated officers could be punished for violating it.
“At any time if an officer needs to communicate with federal immigration employees, there is no problem with that,” city attorney Downs said.
“We commend the reconstituted IERB for concluding the complaint against the City of Decatur Police Department and for taking tangible, meaningful steps to bring more transparency and fairness to the IERB’s proceedings,” he said.
Attempts to reach IERB chairman James Balli for comment were unsuccessful.
As part of the settlement, the IERB must also pay the city $12,000 in attorney’s fees and other costs.
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