The ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers is a federal program that identifies illegal immigrants on the payroll.
Van Brink met with county chairman Tim Lee to learn about the proposal last month, and Lee expressed his reservations about it. On Tuesday, Van Brink met with immigration activist D.A. King at the Marietta Diner to learn about the other side.
At the end of the lunch, Van Brink said, “I can tell you that I’ve already pretty much made up my mind unless Tim can convince me otherwise, if there is a better way.”
In other words, Van Brink said he was a fan of requiring contractors to apply for IMAGE certification.
Van Brink said he is not a fan of Commissioner Helen Goreham’s counterproposal. Instead of requiring contractors to apply for certification as proposed by Commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell, Goreham said a points system should be designed that would reward contractors who apply for certification when they bid on county projects.
“It doesn’t sound to me like it is solving the problem,” Van Brink said.
Goreham has described her idea as using a carrot instead of a stick, a description King dismissed as an old political trick.
“So think about driving to St. Simons, going the speed limit, and getting paid for it,” King said. “If anybody truly believes that Helen Goreham dreamed this up by herself, I have a bridge for sale, and if anybody truly believes there is any contractor who will even be certified, much less apply for it, under Helen Goreham’s points system, I have two bridges for them.”
Not only does King disagree with Goreham’s proposal, he wants her out of office. She said he would assist a primary candidate to unseat Goreham from the Board of Commissioners in the 2014 election.
During their Tuesday lunch, Van Brink quizzed King about the IMAGE program, asking about its benefits. King said the certification process demonstrates the employer must implement a plan for excellence in hiring. It means the employer has either corrected or not made any mistakes in previous hires on I-9 forms. And it means there is no one working for the employer who has used fake or stolen identification such as Social Security numbers or drivers’ licenses on the I-9 form to obtain and keep their job, he said.
“In short, IMAGE protects budget dollars in Cobb County and jobs and ID theft. ID theft and illegal immigration go hand in hand,” he said.
King said in 2011 Gov. Nathan Deal said illegal immigration cost Georgians $2.4 billion a year, while the Pew Hispanic Center reports that at least 7 percent of Georgia’s workforce is black market labor.
But he said powerful lobbies are working to stop IMAGE in its tracks.
“This is not just about Cobb County now,” King said. “I will tell you because I know the (Association County Commissioners of Georgia) and (Georgia Municipal Association) agenda so well that they are going crazy over this.”
The immediate impact of passing IMAGE would create 10,000 jobs for American citizens, King predicted.
“Because people who know that they have all this illegal labor will fix their system and get in there and get rid of the illegal labor that’s so obvious,” he said. “I’m guessing you’re fighting not just the Cobb Chamber, ACCG, GMA, but also the state Chamber, and I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t the Associated General Contractors lobby involved in this as well.”
King said two years ago when a similar proposal was floated in the General Assembly, a lobbyist for the Associated General Contractors told him his group would drive a stake through its heart, which is exactly what happened.
“This, in a nutshell, is a microcosm of the illegal immigration crisis we have in the United States of America,” King said. “I bring up a proven, existing, completely legal program that will root out identity theft and illegal labor in a period of high unemployment, and instead of being welcomed with open arms, when it starts to affect the business community, people like me have to fight tooth and nail, get called names and answer questions about why we shouldn’t do this. This is it. This is the whole problem in a nutshell.”
Amy Selby, spokeswoman for the Cobb Chamber, said her organization has not taken an official position on the IMAGE proposal.
“It’s not something our members have asked us to look into,” Selby said. “If they do, that’s when we’ll move toward taking an official position.”