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First Minnesota business partners with ICE, joins 'IMAGE' program

MINNEAPOLIS - A suburban Twin Cities business is the first Minnesota member of a nationwide program by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure a legal and more secure work force.

"IMAGE" or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers" is a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

Edward (Skip) Bolton and Justin Holden, of Ryt-way Industries LLC signed an agreement with ICE on Jan. 13 making his company a full member of the IMAGE program.

Ryt-way Industries has served the food service industry in North America for more than 43 years. It employs more than 1,000 people, and currently is headquartered in Lakeville, Minn.

"By volunteering to become members of IMAGE, companies large and small can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents," said Mike Feinberg, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Bloomington, Minn. "Businesses that join IMAGE also increase the reputation of their brand and their company."

To qualify for IMAGE certification, Ryt-way Industries performed the following requirements:

  • Conducted self-assessments of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by illegal aliens;
  • Enrolled in employment eligibility verification programs, such as E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service;
  • Trained their staffs on IMAGE Best Practices and how to use the new screening tools; and
  • Underwent a Form I-9 audit conducted by ICE.

"Ryt-way is very proud to be the first company in Minnesota to qualify and sign up for the IMAGE program. We are committed to complying with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security's high standards for above board hiring practices," said Skip Bolton, Ryt-way's human resources director. "We hope that we are just the start in Minnesota and encourage all Minnesota companies to take a look at the IMAGE program and make it part of their standard practices. Everyone at Ryt-way is very excited to be a part of this ground breaking program for Minnesota employers."

All IMAGE members must participate in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Through this program, employers can verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This Internet-based system is available throughout the nation and is free to employers. It provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration records.

Upon enrollment in and commitment to the IMAGE Best Employment Practices, program participants are deemed "IMAGE certified," a distinction DHS and ICE believe will become an industry standard. IMAGE also provides to all employers free training on the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.

Companies interested in more information on the IMAGE program can call the ICE office in Bloomington at (952) 853-2602 or visit www.ICE.gov/image/.