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- 05-17-2012, 02:15 PM #1
GA. Cobb County to join voluntary ICE enforcement program
Cobb to join voluntary ICE enforcement program
By AP | May 17, 2012
ATLANTA (AP) — A suburban Atlanta county is on the verge of becoming the first local government in Georgia to join a voluntary federal immigration enforcement program that aims to make sure all employees are in the country legally and eligible to work.
Cobb County commissioners plan to sign an agreement Tuesday with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to participate in the IMAGE program. While nearly 300 businesses nationwide have joined the recently revamped program, only a handful of municipalities across the country have done so.
Several municipal governments have turned out for IMAGE information and training sessions, and ICE expects to see more of them sign up for the program, said Brock Nicholson, head of the agency's Atlanta field office.
"It benefits them like it does any corporation or business," he said. "It helps them work towards ensuring that our workforce is a legal workforce."
The acronym stands for ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers. Federal officials say it can reduce the employment of illegal immigrants and the use of fake identification documents.
Cobb County has previously taken a tough approach on illegal immigration. Its sheriff's department is one of four in the state that participate in a local-federal partnership that allows specially trained local deputies to enforce federal immigration law. But Cobb County commissioner Bob Ott, who pushed for the county to join IMAGE, said this isn't about getting people deported. He said it will protect job opportunities.
"It's all about jobs for the folks in Georgia and Cobb County," he said. "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."
To participate, employers must meet several requirements: enroll in the federal E-Verify program; submit to an ICE audit of their I-9 forms that new employees complete and related documents; establish a written hiring and employment verification policy that includes a yearly internal audit; and sign a partnership agreement with ICE.
The Association County Commissioners of Georgia has generally opposed state-level legislation that places the burden of verifying employment eligibility on local governments, but associate legislative director Todd Edwards said the association doesn't oppose local governments taking such action.
"If the county commissioners and the people of Cobb so desire to go with IMAGE, that's their choice," he said. "What we do have concerns with is any mandated approach by the state Legislature to require any and all counties to adopt the same measure."
In fact, Georgia law already requires public employers, including local governments, and their contractors to verify the legal work status of their employees using the E-Verify database. Contractors must provide sworn statements to the government saying they have run the checks.
But Cobb County has had problems in the past. Some workers on the construction of a new county courthouse in 2010 turned out to be illegal immigrants. It was determined that a subcontractor wasn't checking workers' eligibility as required.
While county participation in IMAGE would not have caught that problem, Ott says his goal is for the county to do business only with IMAGE-certified contractors.
The fulfillment of that goal is likely a long way off. Fewer than 300 companies nationwide are currently certified or have signed agreements with ICE to go through the certification process.
"It's not something that's going to happen overnight," Ott said. "But the message it sends out is the county is going to be serious about making sure that we're going to try to get the jobs to people that are entitled to have them."
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- 05-21-2012, 10:58 PM #2
May 21, 2012 12:42 AM
by Geoff Folsom
The Marietta Daily Journal
BOC will sign immigration deal
MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Commissioners will make an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official at their Tuesday meeting.
The meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the commissioners second floor meeting room at 100 Cherokee St., will start with a vote and then a signing ceremony with ICE officials, said southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott, who pushed for the county to join the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program. The voluntary program seeks to ensure all county employees are in the country legally and are eligible to work.
ICE will be represented by Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge for the Atlanta field office, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Chairman Tim Lee will sign the agreement after the board votes to approve it, Ott said.
“We have to basically give the chairman permission to sign the documents,” he said.
Cobb is the first government in the state to use the IMAGE program. Ott hopes the county can be a leader for others.
While the county has used the federal E-Verify program to check on worker status since 2006, Ott said the IMAGE program will go further. Though it will initially only be used with county employees, Ott hopes that in the future it will be used to prevent situations like the one that occurred during construction of the new $63 million courthouse, where one sub-contractor, Zebra Construction of Suwanee, was found to be hiring illegal immigrants.
The county will also vote on putting $30,000 in contingency money from the general fund into the budget for the Board of Equalization because of an increased number of appeals the board must deal with.
The extra contingency money is needed because of an increased number of residents who appealed the values of their homes due to a 2010 state law, which went into effect last year, which mandates that every county send every property owner a tax assessment notice each year. Elva Dornbush, chief deputy clerk, said this means more people are aware of their property values, which means more have appealed.
That has meant a heavier workload for the Board of Equalization members, which, at $25 per hour for a hearing officer, has caused a budget shortfall.
“The Board of Equalization has to work longer hours and more days,” Dornbush said. “Not enough money was put in the budget.”
The Board of Commissioners will also vote on awarding $25,000 from the Mableton Grant Fund to the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority for ongoing operating expenses. The authority, which has a seven-member board of directors that has been meeting since October, is seeking to put the South Cobb Implementation Strategy in place. The strategy is intended to combine three plans for the future of south Cobb — one for Mableton, one for improving the dilapidated area along Six Flags Drive and the other for Riverview Road, which Commissioner Woody Thompson hopes to see include restaurants, retail and recreation along the Chattahoochee.
“It’s going to take about seven years to develop it out,” he said. “It’s going to be a real exciting program.”
The Marietta Daily Journal - BOC will sign immigration dealWe have immigration laws that just need to be enforced.
- 05-23-2012, 11:42 AM #3
Activist lauds Board of Commissioners role in ICE program
by Geoff Folsom
May 23, 2012 01:00 AM
MARIETTA — Foes of the immigration issue squared off moments after the Cobb Board of Commissioners approved an immigration employment agreement with a federal agency Tuesday evening.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, immigration enforcement activist D.A. King, founder of the Cobb-based Dustin Inman Society, praised commissioners for becoming the first county or city government in Georgia, and one of 10 nationally, to join U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program. The program goes beyond using the federal E-Verify system to check immigration status, submitting the county to initial audits and inspections of its employment procedures, but then refraining from additional audits for two years if there are no problems.
King said the county should extend the program to contractors that it hires.
“While I have serious doubts that there are a lot of illegal aliens working for Cobb County, I am sure and certain from my time in the capitol, that there are a lot of people in the country illegally working for contractors who do work periodically for the county,” he said. “Like the majority of Cobb Countians, I don’t want one dime of my money going to illegal labor if there is a tool that could be put in place that would stop it.”
But Rich Pellegrino of the Cobb Immigrant Alliance, part of a small group of pro-immigration protesters at the meeting, condemned the commissioners’ decision. He said that since the county began its tough immigration stance in 2006, it has experienced budget deficits, which led to property tax increases and service cuts and an inability to recruit police officers to the county.
“So much for the law and order arguments of being tough on immigration, because it’s only hurt the public safety of this community,” Pellegrino said. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how trying to drive out one segment of the community, who work hard and pay taxes here, has a ripple effect through the whole community resulting in budget deficits, the closing of businesses and so forth.”
At one point, Pellegrino referred to King as his “colleague,” which led King to interrupt to tell Commission Chairman Tim Lee that he resented the remark.
The meeting started with a presentation in which Lee signed an IMAGE agreement with Brock Nicholson, ICE special agent in charge for the Atlanta field office. Nicholson said he has been proud to partner with Cobb County, starting with the 287(g) program the agency has with the Cobb Sheriff’s Office, which allows local governments to have access to the ICE database. Since 2007, thousands of Cobb inmates have been identified as illegal immigrants.
“We applaud your forward thinking, we appreciate the partnership,” Nicholson said.
Lee said the IMAGE agreement will help prevent possible terrorist attacks and protect employees against discrimination based upon citizenship or natural origin.
“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 after the meeting.
For the first time in months, the public comment portion of the meeting included remarks from Joseph Pond, who has battled through courts and commission meetings trying to allow for backyard chickens to be kept at homes on property of less than two acres. He said Tuesday that rules on backyard chickens should be set by homeowners associations, for those who chose to live in a neighborhood that has one, not by the county.
“Cobb County has 700,000 people, it is not possible for some countywide zoning ordinance to respect the rights of 700,000 people. Neighborhood associations can,” he said. “Cobb County has become much too big for micromanagement by the local government.”
The Marietta Daily Journal - Activist lauds Board of Commissioners role in ICE programNO AMNESTY
DON'T REWARD THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
BY GIVING THEM CITIZENSHIP