A proposal requested by commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell would require contractors hired by the county to swear they have filed an application to become certified under the federal IMAGE program, which recognizes businesses that hire legal employees.
Ott explained why the code change was needed.
“It’s my belief that the program is a step in the right direction to making sure that the people that are entitled to work are the ones that get the jobs,” Ott said. “This is not about deportation. This is not about forcing people to leave the country. This is simply about making sure that the jobs that are available in the county go to the people that are legal — nothing more and nothing less.”
Last May, commissioners agreed to complete the application process for becoming an IMAGE certified county.
“As an employer, they have applied to become IMAGE certified,” said immigration activist D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society. “Now we want all the contractors that they use to swear that they have submitted an application to become IMAGE certified.”
On Thursday, at the request of Ott and Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, the county’s community development director, Rob Hosack, released a draft of the proposed change.
That draft has left King less than pleased.
“They haven’t mentioned IMAGE even a little bit. All they’ve done is restated federal and state law,” King said.
County spokesman Robert Quigley explained why the name of the IMAGE program wasn’t used in the draft.
“We typically use terms to describe a function instead of using a program name,” Quigley said. “Program names can change, which would make a code unenforceable until it is modified to match up with a new program name. A function remains constant regardless of the name.”
Hosack said Ott and Birrell were clear about wanting county contractors to become IMAGE certified, and that was the intent of the draft amendment.
“JoAnn and Ott were very, very clear about that,” Hosack said. “It was absolutely our intent, which is why we said on ‘a form provided by the county in accordance with a state statute.’ That state statute kind of spells out any federal verification program that we thought IMAGE fell under that general description.”
Two public hearings will take place on Jan. 22 and Feb. 26 to give residents an opportunity to speak about revisions to the proposal, Ott said.
County Chairman Tim Lee said he supports having the discussion, but reserved his opinion on whether he would support the change until examining any unintended consequences such as, “The cost of implementation to manage it and making us uncompetitive for new business.”