PORTLAND, Ore. — A major Pacific Northwest produce distribution company has become the newest employer to join U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) IMAGE program, which is designed to strengthen hiring practices and reduce unauthorized employment.
Pacific Coast Fruit Company, which serves regional retail, wholesale, and food service customers, boasts a workforce of 450 employees – many of whom have been with the company for years. The family-owned business, which was established in 1977, is one of the largest independently-owned produce distributors in the Pacific Northwest, with a warehouse and fresh cut processing facility in Portland, and a new, state of the art distribution center in Seattle. All of the company’s operating facilities and corporate offices obtained IMAGE certification.
As one of nearly 70 businesses in the Pacific Northwest participating in IMAGE, the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, the company has agreed to partner with ICE and perform the actions required to obtain IMAGE certification. That includes: conducting a self-assessment of hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized workers; enrolling in E-verify, an employment eligibility verification program; training staff on IMAGE Best Employment Practices and the use of new screening tools; and undergoing a Form I-9 audit by ICE.
Pacific Coast Fruit Company’s president, Tom Brugato, noted the business was founded by an immigrant, Emil Nemarnik, who arrived in the U.S. as a child and built a company based on quality, service and integrity.
“We’re proud of our history of offering fair employment and training to so many in our communities, and believe that obtaining IMAGE certification improves our ability to attract and retain qualified employees,” Brugato said.
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.
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.
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 free training to all employers on the provisions surrounding the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.
Companies interested in more information on the IMAGE program can call HSI Seattle at 206-442-2244 or HSI Portland at 503-326-7479 or visit www.ICE.gov/image.