Atlanta – Growing criticism is being leveled at the naming of anti-immigrant activist Phil Kent to a panel in charge of investigating and punishing local authorities who fail to enforce Georgia's tough new immigration law.
The Anti-Defamation League was among the first organizations to express their dissatisfaction with Kent's appointment and has asked Gov. Nathan Deal to reconsider his decision.
Kent is the spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control, which seeks to restrict illegal immigration, and which has figured on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups since 2001.
According to the ADL, Kent has a history of making "deeply disturbing" comments about immigrants, both legal and undocumented.
"Mr. Kent's fixation with maintaining white culture is deeply disturbing and his resort to fear-mongering about undocumented residents is equally abhorrent," the ADL's Southeast regional director, Bill Nigut, wrote in a letter to Deal.
Georgia's new Immigration Enforcement Review Board, which will have its first meeting sometime this month, has the mission of investigating complaints and punishing state and local authorities who violate the new HB 87 immigration law.
The panel was created as part of HB 87, which went into effect on July 1, and is empowered to hold hearings and issue subpoenas, adopt regulations and impose penalties and fines of up to $5,000 for anyone who does not comply with the measure.
All seven members of the board are white males.
The Georgia law, which its detractors call a copy of Arizona's SB 1070, was approved by the GOP-controlled state legislature in April and signed the following month by Deal, also a Republican.
HB 87 obliges all Georgia firms with more than 10 employees to use the federal E-Verify system to check job applicants' immigration status and makes it a criminal offense to present false documents or information when applying for a job.
Thanks to a federal court injunction, HB 87 went into effect without its most controversial clauses: one that would allow police to investigate the immigration status of criminal suspects who are unable to produce valid IDs and another that would punish people who knowingly transport or house illegal immigrants.
A judge blocked enforcement of those parts of the law pending an outcome in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups seeking to have HB 87 overturned.