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Ga. immigration board moves to set up hearing

, The Associated Press

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ATLANTA (AP) - A state panel created to ensure that government employees comply with Georgia's tough immigration law will likely hold its first hearing on a complaint early next year.

Members of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board on Thursday voted to instruct chairman Ben Vinson to take steps to set up a hearing on a July complaint by D.A. King, an activist against illegal immigration.

The complaint alleges the state Department of Community Affairs isn't complying with a state law requirement to collect specific information from government agencies that administer public benefits and to compile that information in a report by Jan. 1 of each year.

Vinson also announced during the meeting that board member Robert Mumford recently resigned from the board to become a Rockdale County Superior Court judge. House Speaker David Ralston, who appointed Mumford to the board, is responsible for choosing his replacement.

Created under the state's strict 2011 law, the board is charged with investigating and reviewing complaints filed by any Georgia registered voter that a state or local government employee or official is violating state laws related to immigration. It began accepting complaints early this year.

The board has broad power to investigate complaints, hold hearings, subpoena documents and witnesses and take disciplinary action. Public employees or officials found to have "knowingly and willfully violated or failed to abide by" the laws can be punished by a fine of up to $5,000.

However, the board has gotten few financial resources and no paid staffers to help it fulfill its mission. The logistical requirements for a hearing, including bringing in a court reporter and having subpoenas delivered, need to be figured out, Vinson said after the hearing.

Board members went back and forth over whether they should get the ball rolling on setting up a hearing or wait for the Department of Community Affairs to submit additional data for 2012 that is due at the end of the year.

Board member Phil Kent pushed for a hearing, saying it was clear to him the department wasn't complying with the law.

"We are the only entity that can sanction. We can't just continue to have non-compliance, in my opinion," he said.

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