"IMAGE" or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers" is a voluntary program that allows private businesses to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.
Gwen Lewis, owner of "Not Just Payroll," signed an agreement Oct. 30 with HSI El Paso's Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, making her business a full member of the IMAGE program.
Founded in 1997 by Lewis, Not Just Payroll is a full-service professional, administrative firm additionally offering human resource management and consultation, and bookkeeping services. It serves about 60 area businesses, employing more than 400 people.
"Businesses that volunteer to participate in the IMAGE program are partnering with HSI to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents," said Ulrich. "By joining IMAGE, businesses such as Not Just Payroll also increase the reputation of their brand and their company."
"Partnering with IMAGE allows our business to ensure compliance," said Lewis. "The education and training IMAGE provides will help us identify persons who are not authorized to secure employment in the United States."
Lewis also said that Not Just Payroll encourages other businesses to consider becoming IMAGE partners. "Most companies do not realize the risks associated with employing unauthorized workers, and the possible civil and criminal penalties involved," she said. "We are honored to be the second company in New Mexico to receive the IMAGE certification, and hope to be role models in the business community of the importance and viability of compliance."
To qualify for IMAGE certification, Not Just Payroll complied with the following requirements:
- Conducted self-assessments of its 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;
- Trained it's staff on IMAGE Best Practices and how to use the new screening tools; and
- Underwent a Form I-9 audit conducted by HSI.
C&J Trucking, one of the major players in the oil and gas industry in the Four Corners area of New Mexico, is also an IMAGE partner.
Nationwide, there are 169 IMAGE members. Additionally, there are 61 companies that have agreed to partner with IMAGE and are awaiting certification.
These are just a few of the employers that partnered with IMAGE this past year:
- Kelly Services
- Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing of North America
- Best Western International
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 U.S. 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.
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 call HSI Albuquerque at 505-889-1539, or visit www.ICE.gov/image.