SAN DIEGO – One of the largest independent distributors of gases, gas equipment and welding supplies in the Southwest has become the newest employer to join U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) IMAGE program, a voluntary partnership that helps employers maintain a lawful workforce and reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.
WestAir Gases & Equipment, a family-owned business formerly known as San Diego Welders Supply, is the 19th San Diego-area employer to become an IMAGE member. Most of the company’s over 200 employees work at offices in Southern California, including the firm’s headquarters in San Diego. The company also has offices in Texas and Arizona.
By participating in IMAGE, the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, WestAir has agreed to partner with ICE and perform the actions required to obtain IMAGE certification. That includes: conducting a self-assessment of hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized workers; enrolling in E-verify, an employment eligibility verification program; training staff on IMAGE Best Employment Practices and the use of new screening tools; and undergoing a Form I-9 audit by ICE.
“WestAir Gases & Equipment, Inc. is honored to be part of the IMAGE program,” said President Steve Byers. “WestAir is committed to focusing on best employment practices and maintaining a stable and secure workforce. We would like to serve as an example to the community and participate in shaping this critical policy. Thank you to ICE for allowing us to be part of IMAGE and helping to educate others on the program.”
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 surrounding the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.
Companies interested in obtaining more information on the IMAGE program can call HSI San Diego at 619-550-5205 or visit ICE.gov/image.