The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in cooperation with several
local businesses, this morning launched the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government
Employers (IMAGE) for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
IMAGE is a joint initiative between government and the business community to ensure
the integrity of the U.S. legal immigration system. Under IMAGE, ICE is partnering
with companies in Puerto Rico to strengthen their hiring practices and reduce
the unlawful employment of illegal aliens.
ICE is responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws. A
known vulnerability is the presence of undocumented workers who have secured jobs
by fraudulent means, including identity theft, the use of false documents, and
the submission of fraudulent applications for immigration benefits. To combat
unlawful employment and reduce vulnerabilities that help illegal aliens gain such
employment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently introduced the
IMAGE program. The goal is to assist employers in targeted sectors to develop
a more secure and stable workforce and to enhance fraudulent document awareness
through education and training.
As part of IMAGE, ICE will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures,
fraudulent document detection, use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification
program and anti-discrimination procedures. Employers seeking to participate in
IMAGE must agree to submit to an I-9 audit by ICE. Forms I-9,
Employment Eligibility Verification, are used to establish a person's identity
and work eligibility, and must be completed by each person a company hires.
All IMAGE participants gain membership to DHS's 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 currently free to employers. It provides
an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration
"Most employers want to comply with our nation's immigration laws,"
said Roberto Escobar Vargas, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations
in Puerto Rico. "Yet every day they are confronted with illegal aliens attempting
to secure jobs through fraudulent means, including the use of counterfeit documents
and stolen identities. The aim of IMAGE is to help employers deal with these situations
and confidently develop a legal workforce."
Upon enrollment in and commitment to DHS's Best Employment Practices, program
participants will be deemed "IMAGE certified," a distinction DHS believes
will become an industry standard.