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2 El Paso businesses partner with ICE, join 'IMAGE' program

El Paso SAC Manuel Oyola-Torres congratulates Dr. J.A. Marquez for joining ICE's IMAGE program.
El Paso SAC Manuel Oyola-Torres congratulates Dr. J.A. Marquez for joining ICE's IMAGE program.
EL PASO, Texas -- Two local businesses are the newest members of a nationwide program by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure a legal and more secure work force.

"IMAGE" or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers" is a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

Irene Epperson, of Jobe Materials, L.P., and Dr. J.A. Tony Marquez signed an agreement with ICE on Dec. 10 making them full members of the IMAGE program.

Jobe Materials L.P., which manufactures concrete products, has served West Texas for more than 25 years. It employs more than 425 people, and currently serves Fort Bliss.

Marquez, who is self employed, has practiced general dentistry in east El Paso since 1974. His practice has five employees.

"By volunteering to become members of IMAGE, companies -- large and small -- can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents," said Manuel Oyola-Torres, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in El Paso. "Businesses that join IMAGE also increase the reputation of their brand and their company."

To qualify for IMAGE certification, Jobe Materials L.P. and Marquez performed the following requirements:

  • Conducted self-assessments of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by illegal aliens;
  • Enrolled in employment eligibility verification programs, such as E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service;
  • Trained their staffs on IMAGE Best Practices and how to use the new screening tools; and
  • Underwent a Form I-9 audit conducted by ICE.

"As an employer committed to lawful employment practices, Jobe believes that the training and education available through the IMAGE program is of great assistance in the hiring process," said Irene Epperson of Jobe Materials L.P. "We support and recommend IMAGE's Best Employment Practices, and encourage other employers to consider this program."

Marquez, who has been an IMAGE advocate since his practice was audited last year, said: "I feel that by being audited by ICE, and having my employees train through the E-Verify online system to determine the authenticity of new employee documentation, I will be a more vigilant employer and a guardian of immigration laws. "I will also be an ambassador to other health professionals, so that they will be fully aware of ICE enforcement procedures and be in full compliance with federal laws when they hire new employees," he said.

As of March 2009, ICE HSI in El Paso has signed IMAGE agreements with the following:

  • Hoy Fox Toyota/Lexus, one of the most prominent automotive dealerships in El Paso, it's part of the Hoy-Fox Automotive Group, consisting of several automotive lines, which was established in 1973;
  • Mission Chevrolet, the top-selling Chevrolet dealership in El Paso and west Texas;
  • Southwest Staffing Inc., El Paso-based woman-owned temporary employment agency serving the staffing industry for 16 years;
  • C&J Trucking, one of the major players in the oil and gas industry in the Four Corners area of New Mexico.

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 to all employers free training on 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 the ICE office in El Paso at (915) 231-3417 or visit www.ICE.gov/image.