Members of Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board are scheduled to meet next month to consider a complaint from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle that alleges Decatur is violating a state law prohibiting “sanctuary policies.” Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

Georgia immigration board drafts proposed opinion against Decatur

Decatur violated a state law barring “sanctuary policies” last year when it adopted rules limiting its cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a proposed opinion made public Saturday by Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is facing a state ethics complaint that accuses him of using taxpayer-funded resources to fuel his complaint against Decatur and advance his Republican campaign for governor.

Members of the immigration enforcement board will meet on June 27 to decide whether to approve the proposed opinion or take some other action on the complaint Cagle filed against the city, board chairman Shawn Hanley said Saturday. The board’s proposed opinion says Decatur could face losing state funding if it does no rescind its policy prohibiting city police from arresting, detaining or transporting anyone based solely on a detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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The city’s policy, according to the board’s draft opinion, “is an illegal ‘sanctuary policy’ in that it restricts and places limitations on Decatur police officers’ ability to timely, freely and fully ‘cooperate or communicate’ immigration status information to federal officials.”

Cagle cheered the board’s move Saturday.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Decatur, which has vigorously denied it is violating state law, has told the board that it does not prohibit its officers from communicating with ICE, that it has never received an ICE detainer and that its policy is aimed at helping it comply with the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. At the same time, the city is suing the board, alleging it is violating the state’s open meetings and open records laws.

“We also knew from Day 1 that this entire proceeding was simply a tool used to advance the Cagle for Governor campaign,” Decatur City Attorney Bryan Downs said in a statement. “The timing of the release of this proposed decision – on the Saturday before the Tuesday primary – is not a coincidence.”

On Friday, Tom Stubbs, a private attorney based in Decatur and a former Democratic state Senate candidate, filed his complaint against Cagle with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. Stubbs is alleging Cagle and his campaign are using his taxpayer-funded government office and staff as a “hidden slush fund to support campaign work.”

“Cagle is a hypocrite,” Stubbs’ complaint says. “He accused the City of Decatur of violating a law, when it is Cagle and his campaign who are actually violating the law. Cagle and his campaign’s misuse of taxpayer-funded government employees under his control should offend people of every political stripe.”

Cagle campaign manager Scott Binkley called Stubbs’ complaint a “partisan attack from a liberal Democratic donor.”

“As for the charge, you’re dang straight Casey used and will use the full powers of his office to do the job the people of Georgia elected him to do,” Binkley said. “He’ll continue that fight as governor, and he’ll take the Democrats’ whining about it as further evidence he’s doing the right thing.”

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