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Sullivan County may target firms that hire illegal immigrants

J. H. Osborne • Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — There’s a proposal before Sullivan County commissioners “to require local companies receiving county tax incentives or funds to employ only U.S. citizens or legally documented immigrants.”

The resolution, introduced by Commissioner Moe Brotherton and co-sponsored by Commissioner Sam Jones, in part says “employment of immigrant workers oftentimes undermines the U.S. worker and the standard of living that has been accomplished.”

It was distributed to commissioners as a “first reading” item Monday at the Sullivan County Commission. That means it could come for a vote next month and gain passage with a simple majority of 13 “aye” votes from the 24-member commission.

Contacted by the Times-News on Wednesday, Jones said he and Brotherton are not responding to any particular situation — they don’t know of any business with funding links to the county that is employing illegal immigrants.

Jones also said they’re aware state and/or federal laws might already bar the practice.

But, Jones said, they think the county needs to “go on record” on the issue.

“If we’re going to be using taxpayers’ dollars to fund incentive programs or contracts with businesses, this is something we need to have in place. We don’t see anything, but we ought to address the issue. There are a lot of programs that come into play. We shouldn’t be giving government incentives to companies employing illegals,” he said.

The resolution he co-sponsors with Brotherton says “guest worker programs and the use of immigrant workers is becoming even more popular by many U.S. companies.”

What the proposal asks commissioners to enact:

•“Now therefore be it resolved that the (County Commission...) authorize that all companies that are recruited to locate in the county by the use of tax incentives and aided by county funds be required to primarily employ area citizens.”

•“Be it further resolved that the (County Commission) hereby require that all companies that locate in industrial parks developed with the aid of county funds be required to primarily employ area citizens.”

•“Be it further resolved that any company contracting with the county to perform work paid for by county funds be required to employ only U.S. citizens or legally documented immigrants.”

Asked about the wording “primarily employ area citizens,” Jones said the phrase refers to the hiring of local residents — rather than bringing employees in from elsewhere.

“We’d like to encourage businesses to hire local,” Jones said. “But we know there are industries with specialized technical workers, and they’re going to bring some with them. ... We want them to be legal.”

The proposal will be on the agenda for each of the County Commission’s three primary committees in coming weeks.

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