For seven years, the Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB) has been meeting on state grounds, but most people don't even know the board exists.
The board was formed by the state legislature in 2011 and is made up of 7 members who are tasked with reviewing complaints about illegal immigration. The IERB has the authority to impose fines on agencies and local municipalities who violate Georgia immigration laws.
"We believe our job is to get cities and counties compliant," says board chairman Shawn Hanley.
With an annual budget of $20,000, that's not an unreasonable amount of money, until you examine exactly what they've done.
The CBS46 Bulldog investigative team reviewed board-provided documents and found that since 2011 the board has investigated only 22 complaints. Of those complaints, only one resulted in a formal sanction. That was last year when the city of Atlanta was fined $1,000 for failing to ensure benefits were given only to legal citizens.
Even more intriguing is who is filing the complaints--all but two of them were made by the same person, a man the Southern Poverty Law Center recently identified as the founder of an anti-immigrant hate group.
Plainly put, critics could argue taxpayers are footing the bill for a one man witch hunt.
"I think some people are just more hawkish on certain issues than others," says Hanley.
The board's purpose is coming into view, thanks in part to a recent lawsuit filed by the city of Decatur. It alleges the board has been meeting in secrecy, violating sunshine laws.
But it stems from a complaint filed by Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, which alleges the city has violated sanctuary city laws. Hanley says "Casey Cagle's complaint had to wait in line like everyone else's."
It is also worth noting the Lieutenant Governor was one of three lawmakers who appointed the board members.
City of Decatur attorney Bryan Downs says, "Anyone who was appointed by the Lieutenant Governor should not be serving as part of this case."
Not only does the board cost taxpayers, but it becomes costly for counties and cities to defend themselves, should they become the center of a complaint, due to subpoenas and legal fees. In most cases, it appears, the cases are dismissed or simply shelved with a warning.
Leading to the question--is one sanctioned violator in seven years--really worth it?
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