DHS Announces New Program to Help Employers Avoid Hiring Unauthorized Workers
The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched a new initiative to help employers maintain a legal workforce. Called the ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers (IMAGE), the program is “designed to build cooperative relationships between government and businesses to strengthen hiring practices and reduce the unlawful employment of illegal aliens,” announced DHS. “The initiative also seeks to accomplish greater industry compliance and corporate due diligence through enhanced federal training and education of employers.”
“Most employers want to comply with our nation’s immigration laws,” said Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for ICE. “Yet, every day they are confronted with illegal aliens attempting to secure jobs through fraudulent means, including the presentation of counterfeit documents and stolen identities. Employers are not trained or obligated to be document detectives. Today, we are launching IMAGE to help employers deal with these situations and confidently develop a legal workforce,” she said.
To become an IMAGE participant, an employer must register with ICE and must agree to adhere to a number of requirements, including an I-9 audit, use of the Basic Pilot employment Verification Pilot Program administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for new hires, and development of internal training programs for completing employment eligibility verification forms and detecting fraudulent documents, establish a protocol for responding to “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration, and more. For a full list of requirements, click here.
In exchange, ICE will provide training and education on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, and anti-discrimination laws. ICE will also share data on the latest illegal schemes used to circumvent legal hiring processes, will review the employer’s hiring and employment practices, and will work collaboratively with the company to correct isolated, minor compliance issues that are detected. “Participation in IMAGE will help companies reduce unauthorized employment and minimize identity theft. An IMAGE participant can better protect the integrity of its workforce by helping ensure that employees are who they represent themselves to be,” according to DHS.
The benefits of participation seem attractive in this era of increased reliance on foreign workers to meet construction shortages and of increased enforcement of immigration laws by the government. However, contractors are encouraged to consult a qualified business immigration attorney before agreeing to a program that subjects the company to audits without a “safe harbor” provision.
For more information about IMAGE, click here.
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