PITTSBURGH – The R.M. Kerner Company, Erie, Pa., (www.rmkco.com) has partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) employment compliance program, IMAGE, or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers."
Founded in 1948 in Ron Kerner Sr.’s basement, R. M. Kerner Co. now occupies 135,000 sq. ft. on 21 acres in Erie. R. M. Kerner Co. is a contract manufacturing company, specializing in machining, assembly and fabrication across a variety of industries, making components for cable TV, exercise equipment, rail, heavy truck, construction, and the oil and gas industries. The firm currently has 40 full-time employees.
"When we heard about IMAGE, we thought it was a great idea," said President Ron Kerner Jr. "We have had a great relationship with other government agencies’ cooperative programs, including OSHA and the VA."
"This seemed like a no-brainer," said Plant Manager Mike Kerner. "There are rules you have to follow when hiring people, and DHS and ICE are offering to proactively help you comply. We wish every agency had a program like Homeland Security’s IMAGE, and OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)."
Undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits and stealing identities of legal United States workers. To combat this, ICE initiated the IMAGE program in 2006. As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including use of employment screening tools such as E-Verify. IMAGE certified employers also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Employers that are certified with ICE through the IMAGE program pledge to maintain a secure and stable workforce and curtail the employment of unauthorized workers through outreach and education. ICE recently revamped IMAGE, simplifying program requirements.
All IMAGE members must participate in the U.S. 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.
HSI worksite investigations
Effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in the fight against illegal immigration. HSI has developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that promotes national security, protects critical infrastructure and targets employers who violate employment laws or engage in abuse or exploitation of workers.
An effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves. In worksite cases, HSI investigators adhere to high investigative standards, including the following:
- HSI will look for evidence of the mistreatment of workers, along with evidence of trafficking, smuggling, harboring, visa fraud, identification document fraud, money laundering and other such criminal conduct; and
- HSI will obtain indictments, criminal arrests or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. attorney's office to prosecute the targeted employer before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at a worksite.
- HSI also works with the private sector to educate employers about their responsibilities to hire only authorized workers and how to accurately verify employment eligibility, through such tools as the IMAGE program.
Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individual's identity and employment eligibility document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual. Additionally, an employer must ensure that the employee provides certain information regarding his or her eligibility to work, on the Form I-9.
"Employers will continue to be held accountable by HSI for hiring and maintaining a legal workforce," added Kelleghan. "HSI encourages employers to take this employment verification process seriously, as HSI expands the number of audits we are conducting each year. Special agents will continue to focus their attention on employers who knowingly employ illegal workers."
Employers – non-profits, companies and municipalities – in the western Pennsylvania area that are interested in the IMAGE program can call HSI Pittsburgh Office at 412-432-2100, or visit www.ICE.gov/IMAGE.