Cagle continues anti-'illegals' message on campaign trail

Posted June 4, 2018 3:15 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA -- The GOP gubernatorial primary runoff is underway and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle can return to the important work of beating up on illegals.

I can almost see the ad where he borrows from the catchy TV commercial of his opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

After the requisite shotgun blast, Casey manfully ambles over to his monster truck and drawls, "Ah've got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself."

The camera cuts away to the pickup truck bed, but it's not filled with Latino laborers. It's filled with Casey's other version of illegals -- tie-dyed, rainbow-coalitioned Decaturites.

"I'm gonna bring 'em back to New York City," he says. "Yup, I just said that."

Gov Lite's war with the city of Decatur will continue to amp up, as there are two more long months of campaigning to endure.

Last fall, with election year looming, Candidate Cagle took issue with Decatur and filed a complaint with the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, which I've described as an entity created by the state in 2011 to give anti-immigration activist D.A. King somewhere to file complaints.

Decatur Police Chief Mike Booker had issued a directive saying his officers were not to turn over people to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless there was a valid judicial warrant to hold them -- such as an active warrant for burglary or missing traffic court. The chief said it was a Fourth Amendment thing.

Casey, a veteran pol, chortled and rubbed his hands together in glee upon hearing this. He had himself a two-fer: He could appear tough on illegal immigration (hey, it worked for Trump) AND he could beat up on Decatur, the bluest burg in Georgia.

Cagle said Decatur was creating "sanctuaries for criminals." If found "guilty" by the immigration panel, the city could be fined and lose state and federal funding, maybe a million dollars.

The city has fired back, calling Cagle a bully, a panderer and even a bit of a girly man, which is a real dig because the GOP primary with all its guns and trucks is a real machismo rodeo.

"He wasn't man enough to come here today and make these allegations and maybe even put his hand up and swear under oath to answer questions," said Decatur's attorney, Bryan Downs, at the immigration board hearing last month.

Team Casey said he was busy that day. Besides, he had a couple of state employees man the room during the hours of testimony. A Decatur resident and attorney named Tom Stubbs took issue with that and filed an ethics complaint against Casey. He said Cagle is having state employees work on his campaign, "which is like having taxpayers paint your house or cut your grass."

State law says complaints may be filed by any "legally registered voter." So who filed it? Was it Citizen Casey? Gov Lite Casey? Candidate Casey?

"Trying to parse whether he acted as an official or a citizen is silliness," Cagle campaign official Brian Robinson told me. "Of course, Casey's campaign is going to talk about his record in office and how he has kept his promises to fight illegal immigration.

"It's what a campaign is," Robinson continued. "Casey isn't just talk. He's going to take action on illegal immigration -- and the examples go back years, not months."

Another Cagle operative said ICE detainers aren't issued for Mickey Mouse crimes: "The reality is we're talking about homicide, armed robbery, child molestation and kidnapping and similar offenses."

Hmm. My BS detector dinged on this one. If the bad hombres were wanted for homicide, molestation or aggravated assault, there'd be something more than an ICE detainer out for them. There'd be criminal warrants.

I called immigration attorney Dustin Baxter, who said the vast majority of ICE detainer cases he sees are for driving without a licence.

"The gang bangers and murderers are not being released," Baxter said. "That is dog whistle politics."

Decatur's immigration review board hearing finally was held Tuesday, May 15 -- a full six months after the complaint was filed. Four days later, and just 72 hours before the polls opened, the review board released a proposed opinion saying Decatur violated Georgia code and is a "sanctuary city."

Three times the ruling mentioned that Decatur would even let suspected terrorists walk free.

Candidate Gov Lite cheered, saying Decatur and other cities need to clean up their act, "or else there will be serious consequences."

Decatur attorney Downs growled, "Ridiculous!" when asked about the references to terrorism. "They stretched and twisted what the (police chief's) memo said."

Downs also wasn't buying the coincidence of the ruling coming back so quickly and so close to the election.

Immigration board chairman Shawn Hanley, a former Marine and former Fulton County GOP chief, said the nine-page decision was not rushed to help Casey in time for the runoff.

"We're damned if we do, damned if we don't release it," he said. "If we hold it until after the election, then we're being political."

Hanley said the board is a lean and mean operation that has been clearing up old cases and is getting slammed by both sides. "The hard right is coming down on me because we're not sanctioning enough cities, and the far left sees us as a right-wing panel," he said. "So we must be doing something right."

He said the board will vote on his recommendation at a later date.

If I were a betting man, I'd know where to put my money on that.

Meanwhile, Decatur will keep fighting and Gov Lite Cagle will use the board's ruling in his quest to take the Lite from his title.

One more thing: Last year when I wrote about this, Casey fired back, calling me a "media elite." I don't know how elite I am. But I have never posed for a photo in biking Spandex -- as has Casey. So I guess it takes one to know one.

Bill Torpy writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Email: btorpy(at)ajc.com.

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