March 30, 2013 12:00 AM
by Bridgette Bonner

MARIETTA — Council members said Thursday the city will look into a federal program to prevent tax dollars from going to illegal immigrants.

Marietta is taking steps to become certified for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE. The program would allow federal agents to audit the city’s payroll data in an effort to certify that its workforce is made up of legal residents.

Marietta would become the second city in Cobb to signal its willingness to move forward with the program, following Acworth’s lead.

Cobb County enrolled in the IMAGE program last year, and the Cobb Board of Commissioners announced this week that certification was completed.

To become IMAGE certified, a city must use E-Verify, an online system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.

Because using E-Verify is a state requirement in Georgia, Marietta already met that step in 2008. The next step is to conduct a self-audit of the city’s I-9 forms.

Marietta would need to have a policy in place agreeing to conduct a yearly self-audit, and ICE agents will need to conduct their own audit to issue a certification.

Marietta has already contacted ICE and begun working with the federal agency.

The ongoing annual cost wouldn’t be significant, said Shannon Barrett, assistant to the city manager. Initial costs locating all I-9 forms are unknown, Barrett said, but would be greater than the ongoing costs.

“The feds can come in and audit anyway,” said City Manager Bill Bruton. “We need to not have errors anyway. This is a voluntary thing.”

The program would not apply to contractors the city does business with, Barrett said, but includes all city employees.

“We think of IMAGE as only illegal aliens, but this has other benefits,” Mayor Steve Tumlin said. “It helps create a good rapport.”

The council will vote on acceptance of the program at the April 17 regular meeting.

The Marietta Daily Journal - Marietta taking steps to become IMAGE certified