Immigration enforcement board member abstains in case against Decatur

Phil Kent, a member of Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board, said Thursday he would abstain from hearing a complaint Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has filed against Decatur after the city accused Kent of being “clearly biased and openly hostile” toward the city.

Kent denied the city’s allegations in a prepared statement he sent The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I have not prejudged the merits of the Decatur complaint case before the IERB and I am fully capable of giving the case detached and judicious consideration. I have done this with all the cases before me,” said Kent, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Nathan Deal.

“However, rather than allow this baseless motion from Decatur to delay the process, I have decided on my own volition to abstain from participating in this particular case. The case involving that city should proceed based on the facts of the matter, not to be distracted by unfounded attacks on any member of the review board. I have full confidence in the six other board members for rendering a just decision.”

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In papers the city filed Thursday, Decatur argues Kent should remove himself from the case because of what he has said on television and published on Twitter and on, the online news site he leads. The city, for example, pointed to how Kent appeared on the televised “Georgia Gang” public affairs program and called Cagle a “winner” for “taking a shot” at Decatur.

“Kent’s statements reveal his pre-judgment and fixed opinions on the factual and legal issues that are now before the IERB,” the city’s motion says.

At issue is a complaint Cagle filed against a Decatur 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. Critics point out that courts have found complying with ICE detainers can violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

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Cagle has accused Decatur of violating a state law prohibiting “sanctuary policies” a charge the city vehemently denies. In its motion filed Thursday, Decatur is also accusing Cagle of using his complaint against the city to advance his gubernatorial campaign. Cagle’s office had no immediate comment.