On Jan. 1, cities and counties across the state must be in compliance with Department of Homeland Security requirements; namely, local governments must be able to verify the legal status of people they hire or contract for services.
Legislation passed in 2009 required Georgia municipalities and county governments to comply with the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program, according to the Georgia Municipal Association.
"SAVE is a federal program used to verify that applicants for certain public benefits are legally present in the United States," according to www.gmanet.com. This law applies to workers hired by firms that contract with a government, such as construction workers.
Both the city of Hinesville and Liberty County adhere to these regulations.
"First and foremost, we did it because we’re required to," said Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards. "We were notified through the state sometime back that this needed to be done to retain our certified city status. It’s designed to make sure that the people we hire are in fact U.S. citizens or are here legally; and that the people we do business with are in compliance with city and state regulations."
Edwards said he has not heard any complaints about the city’s contractors and says he is confident the city only does business with companies that follow legal hiring practices.
SAVE is not an expensive system as it is accessible via the Internet and so there are no initial start-up costs, he said.
"It’s more time consuming at the staff level," Edwards said.
Liberty County Manager Joey Brown said the county, like the city, has been aware of these Homeland Security requirements for "some time."
"The Association County Commissioners of Georgia helped with that," Brown said. "We already have been requiring contractors to comply with us."
Hinesville and Liberty County currently have a number of construction projects underway, including Hinesville’s new city hall building and the Justice Center nearing completion in downtown Hinesville.
E-Verify, which is available to private employers, is an Internet-based system similar to SAVE.
E-Verify is operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in partnership with the Social Security Administration, according to www.uscis.gov.
"E-Verify provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers," according to the government website.