The panel was a last minute addition to the House Bill 87– the Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act– which was passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2011. But the state Immigration Enforcement Review Board (IERB), of which I am proud to have been named by the governor to serve as one of seven unpaid members, is taking baby steps toward hopefully becoming an effective enforcement tool.

The board is a regulatory agency entrusted with reviewing compliance with the law by public entities such as counties, cities and agencies. It can only consider complaints by Georgia citizens involving a public entity’s failure to use the online e-verify system to screen new employees to ensure legal status, or a failure to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) federal computer database.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City– the author of H.B. 87– originally considered having private citizens empowered to sue cities, counties and agencies that failed to follow state immigration law. However, a consensus emerged that it would be better to have a board handle citizen complaints and, if necessary, investigate and subpoena records and individuals to guard against abuse. The board was also granted the power to fine entities not in compliance. The goal, of course, is to ensure that hundreds of millions of dollars in public benefits are only used by those legally entitled to them. After all, five years ago, the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center estimated that there were approximately 425,000 illegal aliens in the Peach State— a serious problem when trying to ensure that the state has a legal workforce. 

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