Contractors who want to do business with Cobb County will not be required to apply for certification through a federal program intended to stop undocumented workers from obtaining employment through fraudulent means.
It was standing-room only at the Cobb County administration building Tuesday night. And despite passionate arguments from speaker after speaker in favor of the proposed code change, county commissioners decided that the federal IMAGE program was not the best way to solve unemployment or the issue of illegal workers in Cobb.
"That objective can be obtained through quite a few different ways," Chairman Tim Lee said before the board voted 3-2 against the ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program. "... I think this is bad policy today. There are other ways to skin a cat to get to the issue. This is too much without any quantifiable results."
As expected, the only officials who supported the proposed code change were the co-sponsors of the ordinance, District 2 Commissioner Bob Ott and District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell. Lee, District 1 Commissioner Helen Goreham and District 4 Commissioner Lisa Cupid all voted against it.
Norm DeWalt of North Cobb told the board that the "vote ... is nothing more than supporting economic terrorism."
Jan Barton of Marietta called it a "vote for illegal workers."
D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society and other residents said Georgia has a "serious" illegal immigration problem, which is why they supported IMAGE.
"I want my children to be employed," said Patricia Hay of Mableton. "I want legal residents of the United States to be employed. You're voting to have illegal aliens have jobs over legal citizens."
Backers also said that the program would safeguard the county from embarrassing incidents that have rocked Cobb in recent years.
During the construction of the new Cobb courthouse, information surfaced that a contractor on the project had not verified the status of his employees. At one point, the contractor and the brickmasons who worked for him were pulled off of the job, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"We again are hiring illegal aliens to build our buildings," said Susan Stanton, who lives in an unincorporated section of Cobb near Kennesaw. "It's time we put our foot down. Protect our people, our workers."