Van Brink said he became concerned after lunching with Lee at the Marietta Diner on Tuesday that IMAGE may not be the best way to tackle the problem of illegal immigration.
“After having listened to Tim Lee’s explanation, I would say that IMAGE is a solution for the problem, but not necessarily the best solution for the problem, and it sounds like if we wait another couple weeks we might have an answer as to what is the best solution,” Van Brink said.
During the lunch, at which the Marietta Daily Journal was present, Van Brink asked Lee if he supported a proposal by commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell to require county contractors to apply for IMAGE certification just as the county government did last year.
Lee said he was evaluating the matter. He described a problem scenario, telling Van Brink that, for example, if the county government wanted to enter a contract with Van Brink’s company, in order to be hired, Lee would require Van Brink to apply for IMAGE certification. And if Van Brink believed it wasn’t required for him to apply, it would cost his company 50 man-hours to complete the process, which would increase his costs.
Lee said he is concerned that well-qualified contractors who choose not to participate in the IMAGE program would find themselves locked out of the bidding process, leaving the county to choose from a list of less qualified contractors who charge higher prices for their work. There’s also the potential that a substandard contractor gets all the contracts even though he’s $100 more expensive per hour and lives in Gwinnett County, Lee said.
“So there’s a lot of unintended consequences,” Lee said. “The IMAGE is not tight enough, I don’t think. I’d like to know why E-Verify can’t take care of everybody. E-Verify works going forward, but you’re evidently not supposed to use it going backward. Why not ‘E-Verify’ all your employees and accomplish the same thing? That’s a database, it’s done immediately, and if they’re not (legal), they’re out the door. IMAGE just requires so much work with no enforcement.”
E-Verify is a service that verifies employees’ data against millions of government records and provides results within seconds.
D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society, who specializes in the topic, is a strong supporter of IMAGE certification. He was not impressed with Lee’s argument against the program.
“Either Lee doesn’t understand the process his BOC already went through, or this is a poorly designed charade,” King said late Tuesday. “After the IMAGE certification application is filed, the feds decide when the process goes forward. The ordinance as written has specific timelines. This is nonsense from Lee.”
Van Brink asked Lee if using E-Verify was the solution.
King pointed out that IMAGE is in place because E-Verify is for newly hired employees.
“Neither of these people have even a basic understanding of what they are talking about,” King said.
Lee told Van Brink that the county, which applied for IMAGE certification last year, has still not received its certification from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We did a whole bunch of work before they showed up, and when they showed up it took months and months to get it done, and we’re on the third round of questioning back and forth with them on our forms, so we’re not even certified, and I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man hours getting certification, and by the way, we’ve found nobody,” Lee said.
King asked if Lee was predicting he would find no illegal immigrants on contractors’ payrolls.
“Does he remember the Cobb Courthouse fiasco in which Americans watched illegals take the jobs they paid a SPLOST to create?” King said.
Lee pointed out that just because an illegal alien hadn’t been found didn’t mean one wouldn’t turn up.
“But I’m asking, at what cost to the taxpayer is it worth to address this problem through this process?” Lee said.
King said ICE had a change in its system, during which it shut IMAGE application processing down for nearly 11 months.
“Tim knows that. We are seeing a grown man whine to do the Chamber’s bidding. Very sad,” King said.
The Cobb Chamber of Commerce has told the Journal that it has not taken any official position on the IMAGE program.
Lee complained to Van Brink that Washington, D.C., and the state were “kicking the can” down to the local level when it came to the problem of illegal immigration by “requiring the IMAGE program that requires more cost for me again. And what if I find someone that is IMAGE certified, and they have to tell those people you can’t work for us anymore?” Lee asked.
“They don’t get arrested,” Lee said. “They don’t get deported. They just move somewhere else. So it’s not addressing that person being illegal. All it does is kick the can down the road by saying you can’t do it in Cobb,” Lee said.
But it also means illegal immigrants won’t be doing business with Cobb County, King said.
Lee told Van Brink he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t believe anybody should get a job in Cobb if they are here illegally.
“I believe that,” Lee said. “My question is what’s the best way to identify that. E-Verify helps. I’m here for no illegal to get a job anywhere, period, and I understand how important it is to Cobb County specifically, but I’m evaluating and I haven’t taken a position because I want to make sure when I make an educated vote that it’s an educated, well thought out of the entire process, and I’m still doing my homework.”
Van Brink asked Lee if there was a deadline by which he had to act, to which Lee said there was not. There is only an arbitrary deadline set by the proposed code change in February, but that can be changed, Lee said.
“I think we need to deal with the issue the right way from the get go and not pass something along that we have to keep modifying. Let’s take the time to figure it out,” Lee said.
In response, Van Brink called it an excellent explanation and one that he agrees with.
“It gets back to we want to actually solve the problem not just do something that’s expedient,” Van Brink said.
King said it’s not unusual to try to change the topic.
“E-Verify is not the topic,” King said. “To be IMAGE certified, the employer must use E-Verify. Bottom line, Tim may have fooled J.D. Van Brink, but he isn’t fooling many other Americans. Especially not this expert on IMAGE. Odd that Tim has never contacted me, ever, to ask a single question.”
ICE announced the Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program in 2006. IMAGE is a partnership between the federal government and private sector employers designed to rein in the use of stolen and fraudulent IDs by foreign workers. IMAGE places an emphasis on self-policing in a company’s hiring practices.