“It seems like an intrusive process,” Cupid said after the second of three public hearings on a proposal sponsored by Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Bob Ott.
Cupid said she did read that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may audit a company whether they’ve applied with the federal IMAGE program or not.
“But the threat of one versus the mandate of one are two different things,” she said.
Cupid said she’s amused when critics claim she’s being pressured to vote a certain way.
“I almost wanted to laugh this morning. I’m not pressured,” Cupid said. “I don’t feel cornered at all. At the end of the day, I want to do what’s fair for the county, and at the end of the day I want to make sure that there isn’t adverse impact in how Cobb County conducts their business, and right now I just haven’t heard other than the 10 people (discovered a few years ago to be working on the county courthouse who were illegal immigrants), I haven’t heard what’s the compelling reason. I need something really compelling as to why this needs to occur.”
Cupid also addressed an argument raised by critics that she should be particularly sensitive to the matter of illegal immigration as a black woman because, as the argument goes, illegal immigrants take jobs away from the black community.
“Cry me a river,” she said. “Do they really care? How many of them have protested when they didn’t put businesses in my district? How many protest when CCT is shut down and people can’t get to work? How many people protest when they get rid of affirmative action and programs that will get black people to work?”
At the same time, Cupid added that the argument is not completely without merit, pointing out she has worked in the construction industry.
“I’ve been on sites, I’ve actually worked with a contractor who would tell me why he hires one group over another,” she said. “So don’t get me wrong. There are some matters pertaining to race when it comes to labor-intensive jobs. But if you really want to tackle that subject, let’s really tackle that subject other than the IMAGE ordinance.
“The issue of unemployment in the black community spans far beyond immigration. It may be compounded by immigration, I do grant that, but the issues of unemployment in the black community are far greater, and if those who want to propose IMAGE want to work on those issues as diligently as they’re working on me to support IMAGE, I’m all open. I’m available to meet.”
Cupid said she is sensitive to the immigration topic because her own parents moved to the U.S. from Guyana, South America, while her husband’s parents moved here from Trinidad. She has cousins in Guyana who want to move to the U.S. but can’t because of a complicated immigration process. Immigration is a complicated topic, Cupid said, and is not something that can be solved in a county ordinance.
“You’re not going to do it, and I’m not going to be a pawn for that,” she said. “I’m not going to be a pawn for that when unemployment in the black community has been rampant in double digit numbers prior to the recession. I won’t be a pawn for that. And I’m not going to be a pawn for when we have very complex immigration issues, especially when you can’t show me a robust ordinance. Give me something that measures up.”
Goreham, meantime, said some of her concerns have been addressed. For instance, Goreham was worried about finding a non-certified IMAGE contractor in an emergency. An emergency loophole has since been included in the proposal.
“That makes me feel a lot better,” Goreham said.
But she said she’s still concerned that no other government in the region has signed up for the program.
“I believe that it will affect our ability to conduct business in the most cost-effective manner with the best qualified contractors,” she said.
Goreham said she also wanted to make it clear that an alternative she suggested to the Ott-Birrell proposal was just that – a suggestion. Goreham had suggested using an incentive system in the bid process to award companies a certain amount of points for applying for IMAGE certification.
“But people have put it as ‘Goreham’s incentive program’ here and have stuck to that and have asked me about my incentive program,” she complained. “Well it was a suggestion. I threw out the possibility of an incentive.”
She said she made her concerns public in an effort to open up discussion among the Board of Commissioners.
“That was the main reason to get more discussion on this topic, which it has. I was throwing out some suggestions, but everyone has cornered me and says ‘this is Goreham’s plan to addressing IMAGE.’”
The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the IMAGE proposal on Feb. 26, Goreham said.
“So many things can transpire. So much more information can come up,” she said.
As for immigration activist D.A. King of the Dustin Inman Society recently issuing a press release announcing he would help oust Goreham from office in next year’s election over her IMAGE stance, Goreham said she was not surprised.
“He makes allegations, in my opinion, without any basis for those allegations,” Goreham said. “You know, his Dustin Inman piece, I’d like to see some background information on the allegations he made. You know he’s talking about special interests getting to me. Chamber money. The Chamber runs opposition against me every time I run. But no one questions his allegations.”
IMAGE stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement developed the initiative as a way for employers to achieve a “lawful workforce.”