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Worksite Enforcement

Largest domestic preschool and toddler toymaker partners with ICE

CLEVELAND — America's largest manufacturer of preschool and toddler toys became the latest employer Wednesday to be certified with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) employment compliance program, IMAGE, or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers."

Step2 Company LLC, which employs more than 800 people in northern Ohio, has pledged and been officially certified by ICE to protect the integrity of their workforce, becoming only the second company in Ohio with the distinction. The certification was marked Wednesday by a ceremony at ICE Homeland Security Investigations' (HSI) Strongsville office.

"More than likely, if you've had a child in the last couple of years, you have Step2 toys in your home and know firsthand the quality of their products," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Michigan and Ohio. "This certification adds a level of distinction to the company that says that Step2 is committed to maintaining a quality and capable workforce."

"At Step2, we have a long history of producing high quality, safe toys in the USA," said Jerry McDermott, chief marketing officer. "We are dedicated to ensuring our employees receive the best training and working conditions in a highly competitive manufacturing environment. Today we are proud to accept the ICE IMAGE certification."

The Step2 Company LLC, headquartered in Streetsboro, Ohio, is the largest American manufacturer of preschool and toddler toys and the world's largest rotational molder of plastics. Step2 products are distributed throughout the United States, Canada and over 70 foreign countries.

Businesses that are certified with ICE through the IMAGE program pledge to 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; and
  • 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.