SEATTLE – A Seattle-based marine transportation company, whose fleet ferries crucial supplies to Alaska, is the latest employer to be certified under a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) program designed to strengthen hiring practices and combat the unlawful employment of unauthorized workers.
Alaska Marine Lines is one of more than 160 employers nationwide to complete the IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers) certification process. IMAGE is a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.
"Our IMAGE partnerships enable us to foster best practices in the employment arena, and that, in turn, contributes to a safe and productive work environment," said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "When employers make a proactive commitment to hire and maintain a lawful workforce, it's good for their business and it's good for the community."
To qualify for IMAGE certification, Alaska Marine Lines voluntarily enrolled in E-Verify; established a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal I-9 audits at least once a year; and submitted to a Form I-9 inspection.
Alaska Marine Lines is a full-service marine transportation company specializing in moving all types of freight – from groceries and cars to oversized cranes and other bulky items for the mining, oil and construction industries – to Alaska and northern Canada.
"We are honored to assist the U.S. government in creating a more stable, secure workforce," said Kevin Anderson, president of Alaska Marine Lines. "We take pride in hiring the best employees, and this partnership increases our credibility with the public and our customers. Our customers trust us to ship their freight in a safe and secure manner and participating in this program helps us focus on security as well as superior customer service."
Undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits, and assuming the identities of legal U.S. 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 the Department of Homeland Security and ICE believe will become an industry standard. IMAGE also provides all employers free training on the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.
Companies in Washington, Oregon or Alaska interested in obtaining more information about the IMAGE program are encouraged to contact HSI Seattle's IMAGE coordinator at 206-442-2200. In addition, HSI will be holding an IMAGE Employer's Conference on May 9 in Seattle. Further details about the conference are available at http://www.ice.gov/image. At the conference, employers will receive additional information about the IMAGE program, E-Verify, and how to determine employee eligibility and detect counterfeit documents.