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07/08/2011

Seattle medical provider becomes ICE IMAGE partner

Firm is first medical company to join IMAGE in Washington state

SEATTLE - The largest non-profit medical provider in the Seattle area is partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to strengthen its hiring practices and help ensure it is employing a legal workforce.

Swedish Medical Center, based in Seattle, officially became a member of ICE's Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) Thursday. IMAGE is a voluntary program that allows private sector businesses to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. As a result, a participating employer is able to maintain a more secure, stable workforce.

"We are pleased to welcome Swedish Medical Center as an IMAGE partner and applaud this company's commitment to hiring and employing a legal workforce," said Leigh Winchell, ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge in Seattle. "As a volunteer partner in this effort, Swedish is making a strong statement in the business community that compliance with federal hiring laws is a priority."

When a company pursues IMAGE membership, ICE provides education and training on proper hiring procedures, including employment screening tools such as E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Services. The company also undergoes an audit of its I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.

The E-Verify program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allows businesses to verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This web-based program, available in all 50 states at no cost to employers, provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and Department of Homeland Security immigration records.

Under IMAGE, which was initiated in 2006, ICE partners with employers in a wide range of industries, including employment services, aviation, transportation, construction, high technology, shipping and manufacturing. Currently, more than 100 businesses nationwide are IMAGE members.

Swedish Medical Center, which employs about 8,000 people, has four hospital campuses and more than 70 primary-care and specialty clinics located throughout the greater Puget Sound area. It is the first medical provider in Washington to become an IMAGE partner and the 12th company to join statewide.

Employers interested in learning more about IMAGE membership may contact the local IMAGE coordinator by calling 206-442-2200 or visit www.ice.gov/image.