SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in cooperation with several local businesses, this morning launched the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government Employers (IMAGE) for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
IMAGE is a joint initiative between government and the business community to ensure the integrity of the U.S. legal immigration system.Under IMAGE, ICE is partnering with companies in Puerto Rico to strengthen their hiring practices and reduce the unlawful employment of illegal aliens.
ICE is responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws. A known vulnerability is the presence of undocumented workers who have secured jobs by fraudulent means, including identity theft, the use of false documents, and the submission of fraudulent applications for immigration benefits. To combat unlawful employment and reduce vulnerabilities that help illegal aliens gain such employment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently introduced the IMAGE program. The goal is to assist employers in targeted sectors to develop a more secure and stable workforce and to enhance fraudulent document awareness through education and training.
As part of IMAGE, ICE will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program and anti-discrimination procedures. Employers seeking to participate in IMAGE must agree to submit to an I-9 audit by ICE. Forms I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, are used to establish a person's identity and work eligibility, and must be completed by each person a company hires.
All IMAGE participants gain membership to DHS's 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 currently free to employers. It provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration records.
"Most employers want to comply with our nation's immigration laws," said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Puerto Rico. "Yet every day they are confronted with illegal aliens attempting to secure jobs through fraudulent means, including the use of counterfeit documents and stolen identities. The aim of IMAGE is to help employers deal with these situations and confidently develop a legal workforce."
Upon enrollment in and commitment to DHS's Best Employment Practices, program participants will be deemed "IMAGE certified," a distinction DHS believes will become an industry standard.