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02/23/2012

San Diego-area employer partners with ICE to ensure legal workforce and prevent fraud

Bernardo Heights Country Club becomes 8th ICE IMAGE partner in San Diego

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego-area private country club with more than 70 employees is partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to strengthen its hiring practices, reduce fraud and ensure it hires a legal workforce.

Bernardo Heights Country Club was certified as an "IMAGE" or "ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers" partner during a ceremony earlier this month. IMAGE is a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

"It is my pleasure to welcome Bernardo Heights Country Club as our newest IMAGE partner," said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for HSI San Diego. "When employers join IMAGE and make a commitment to hire and maintain a lawful workforce, it's good for their business and it's good for the community."

The Bernardo Heights Country Club officially opened its 18-hole golf course and country club in 1984 in Ranch Bernardo, a north San Diego suburb. In 1987, members purchased the club from the developer, making it a member-owned country club.

To qualify for IMAGE certification, partners agree to conduct a self-assessment of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized workers; enroll in E-Verify, an employment eligibility verification program; train staff on IMAGE Best Employment Practices and the use of new screening tools; and undergo an Form I-9 audit by ICE.

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.

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 free training to all employers on the provisions of 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 HSI San Diego at 619- 550-5205 or visit www.ICE.gov/image