WASHINGTON — A local animal hospital has become the latest Washington-area employer to join a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program designed to strengthen hiring practices and combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens.
Linden Heights Animal Hospital in Winchester, Va., recently signed an agreement to participate in IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers), a voluntary program in which ICE partners with businesses to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. Representatives for the animal hospital, which employs 21 workers, took part in a ceremony Thursday at ICE's Washington office to formally mark its entry into the program.
There are now a total of seven Washington-area employers partnering with ICE under the IMAGE program, and more than 150 businesses nationwide.
"Our IMAGE partnerships enable us to foster best practices in the employment arena, and that, in turn, contributes to a safe and productive work environment," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. "When employers make a commitment to hire and maintain a lawful workforce, it's good for their business and it's good for the community."
In qualifying for IMAGE certification, Linden Heights Animal Hospital complied with the following requirements:
- Enroll in the E-Verify program within 60 days;
- Establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal I-9 audits at least once per year; and
- Submit to a Form I-9 inspection.
Open since 1967, Linden Heights Animal Hospital was acquired in 1986 by brothers Dr. Joseph Schmitt and Dr. Peter Schmitt. Accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), Linden Heights Animal Hospital is a full-service, small animal veterinary hospital providing comprehensive medical, surgical and dental care.
"The primary purpose of this practice is to provide the highest quality medical, surgical and dental care to our patients and the best possible service to our clients," Dr. Joseph Schmitt said. "We believe working with ICE as an IMAGE partner is the best way to demonstrate our commitment to seeking excellence in all aspects of the hospital. It's the right thing to do for the right reason."
Undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits and stealing the identities of legal U.S. workers. To combat this, ICE initiated the IMAGE program in 2006.
Upon enrollment in and commitment to IMAGE best employment practices, program participants are deemed "IMAGE certified," a distinction the Department of Homeland Security and ICE believe will become an industry standard. IMAGE also provides all employers free training on the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection and building a solid immigration compliance model.
Washington-area companies interested in obtaining more information about the IMAGE program are encouraged to contact HSI Washington D.C.'s IMAGE coordinator at (202) 345-7151.