At the time Chairman Tim Lee said the agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would aid in preventing possible terrorist attacks and protect employees against discrimination based on citizenship or national origin. The new program includes initial audits and inspection of the county’s employment records among other requirements aimed at ferreting out illegal immigrants.
“The message, if there is one, is that Cobb County takes its responsibility very seriously to make sure that everything possibly that could be done is being done to make sure the laws are being followed in our county and to make sure there’s an opportunity for equal employment for those that deserve it,” Lee said.
Special Agent Brock Nicholson of the ICE Atlanta office praised Cobb for its forward thinking, saying he was proud of the partnership with Cobb, starting with the 287(g) program signed with the sheriff’s department in 2007, one of only four such agreements in Georgia. This system, which gives local governments access to the ICE database, has resulted in thousands of Cobb inmates being identified as illegal immigrants in the past five years.
County Commissioner Bob Ott, who had been pushing for Cobb to join the program, said it wasn’t about deporting people. He said: “It’s all about jobs for the folks in Georgia and Cobb County. It really comes down to just making sure that the limited number of jobs that are out there are going to the people that are entitled to have them.”
Both Lee and Ott talked as if there was some urgency to the matter back in May.
Now the commission must move to the next level: requiring all businesses and contractors doing work for the county to also be IMAGE-certified. Optimally, this should be done without delay. However, Lee and Ott said last week the writing of a proposed code amendment won’t be completed until next January. Lee cautioned, “you have to be careful to follow the process and procedures that are in place.” Ott said it was a matter of “basically writing a law. You can’t just rush through something.” And he reiterated his commitment to “protecting jobs for the people here legally, but as we take the next step, we have to look at the legal ramifications.”
Granted, it takes time to look at the legal ramifications. But seven months? Perhaps the commission needs to retain outside expert legal counsel to draft a new code section and get this matter wrapped up in a timely fashion, say, a couple of weeks, possibly before the July 31 primary — not that it has any bearing on this matter. But certainly the job could be done in the next three months before Nov. 6.