"It's critical that companies with access to the American food supply maintain a compliant workforce," said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston, which covers New England. "The certification process adds a level of distinction to the company that says not only is this company committed to quality products, but they are also committed to maintaining a quality and capable workforce."
Allen's Blueberry Freezer Inc. is a wild blueberry grower, freezer and processor in eastern Maine. They currently employ 45 at their Ellsworth facility. The partnership was marked Wednesday by a signing ceremony at the company's facility.
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. As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including use of employment screening tools such as E-Verify. IMAGE certified employers also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.
Employers who 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.
HSI worksite investigations
Effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in the fight against illegal immigration. HSI has developed a comprehensive worksite enforcement strategy that promotes national security, protects critical infrastructure and targets employers who violate employment laws or engage in abuse or exploitation of workers.
An effective worksite enforcement strategy must address both employers who knowingly hire illegal workers, as well as the workers themselves. In worksite cases, HSI investigators adhere to high investigative standards, including the following:
- HSI will look for evidence of the mistreatment of workers, along with evidence of trafficking, smuggling, harboring, visa fraud, identification document fraud, money laundering and other such criminal conduct; and
- HSI will obtain indictments, criminal arrests or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. attorney's office to prosecute the targeted employer before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at a worksite.
HSI also works with the private sector to educate employers about their responsibilities to hire only authorized workers and how to accurately verify employment eligibility, through such tools as the IMAGE program.
All IMAGE members must participate in the U.S. 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 New England interested in more information on the IMAGE program can call the HSI office at 617-565-6286, or visit www.ICE.gov/image.