In May, Cobb became the first county in Georgia to join the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program.
That agreement opens employment records of county employees to audit by federal officials to ensure everyone who is employed by the county is legally permitted to work in this country.
IMAGE differs from the E-Verify program in that employers who participate in E-Verify agree to stringent checks on all future hires, whereas IMAGE is looking back at records of people already on the payroll.
“I get phone calls at home from Americans, including real legal immigrants, who are frantic trying to figure out why they can’t get a job in Cobb County in construction when they know … there are illegal aliens working on Cobb County jobs,” King said.
Lee said a proposed code amendment requiring all businesses that perform work for the county — which in 2011 totaled 4,600 different firms — likely won’t be ready until January.
“While we compliment and understand where he’s trying to take the issue, you have to be careful to follow the process and procedures that are in place,” Lee said.
Commissioner Ott agreed.
“You’re talking about basically writing a law,” Ott said. “You can’t just rush through something … I’m about protecting jobs for the people here legally, but as we take the next step, we have to look at the legal ramifications.”
Ott points to the “conservation subdivision” zoning designation as an example of the need for the county to be cautious in writing a new code amendment. That designation, approved in April 2004, allowed developers to build houses clustered together in exchange for more open space in a development, such as wetlands and floodplains.
The designation was scrapped after two years.
“A committee worked on that for a year, and it still had issues,” Ott said. “Everybody thought they had it just right. That’s just an example of why we need to get it right.”
King addressed commissioners during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
“There is no reason that taxpayer dollars, including my own, should go to pay one dime to illegal labor, when there is a tool right in front of us that you are ignoring that would all but eliminate the possibility of hiring any contractor using illegal labor,” King said. “I am outraged.”