"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.
Ken Rutledge, of Dakota Provisions was presented a certificate of completion Feb. 27, indicating his company is a certified IMAGE partner.
"By volunteering to become members of IMAGE, companies large and small can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents," said Michael Feinberg, special agent in charge of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Bloomington, Minn., which also oversees South Dakota. "Businesses that join IMAGE also increase the reputation of their brand and their company."
Dakota Provisions manufactures and produces poultry and protein products that are specially designed for retail and food service partners. The company was founded by a group of 44 co-op growers, most of whom are members of Hutterite communities.
The Dakota Provisions processing plant in Huron opened in December 2005. What began as a grassroots effort has turned into a world-class processing facility that produces 320 million pounds of product each year.
To qualify for IMAGE certification, Dakota Provisions 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;
- Underwent a Form I-9 audit conducted by ICE.
"Dakota Provisions is honored to become the first South Dakota business to be admitted into the IMAGE program," said President and CEO Kenneth Rutledge. "Our goal, from the time we opened our plant in 2006, has been to be a leader in efficiency of production, a leader in environmental sustainability, to provide a friendly work atmosphere and to provide good jobs to those legally eligible to work in the USA."
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 visit www.ICE.gov/image/.