Fresh Mark, Inc., which employs more than 2,000 people in northern Ohio, has entered into an agreement with ICE to protect the integrity of their workforce, becoming the first company in Ohio to do so. The new partnership was marked Tuesday by a signing ceremony at ICE Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) Strongsville office.
IMAGE is a voluntary partnership that helps companies ensure they are maintaining a lawful workforce.
"Worksite enforcement has traditionally focused on employees and employers, however, we are seeing a growing interest among business executives who want to learn more about the business benefits of having a compliant workforce," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Michigan and Ohio. "They're recognizing how partnering with the government can create a permanent culture of compliance in their companies."
"We are honored to be selected by ICE to participate in this program," said Mark Sullivan, director of human resources at Fresh Mark, Inc. "For nearly a decade, Fresh Mark has proactively partnered with the government to ensure the integrity of our workforce and the IMAGE program will be a tremendous addition to our future employee verification process."
ICE's employer-focused worksite enforcement strategy has yielded historic results. In fiscal year 2011, nationally ICE conducted 2,496 Form I-9 audits, up from 503 in FY 2008. During the same period, 221 employers were arrested and final orders for $10,463,987 in fines were assessed. As a result of workforce violations, 115 individuals and 97 businesses were debarred from federal contracts in 2011.
Businesses that partner with ICE through the IMAGE program maintain a secure and stable workforce and curtail the employment of unauthorized workers through outreach and education. ICE recently revamped IMAGE, simplifying program requirements.
To qualify for IMAGE certification, companies must perform the following requirements:
- Enroll in the E-Verify program within 60 days
- Establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal Form I-9 audits at least once per year
- Submit to a Form I-9 inspection.
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.
Companies in the Cleveland-area interested in more information on the IMAGE program can call the HSI office at (216) 535-0391, or visit www.ICE.gov/image.