ICE IMAGE is a Mutual Agreement Between ICE and Employers U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for enforcing the nation's immigration and customs laws. One known vulnerability is the presence of undocumented workers who have secured jobs by fraudulent means, including presentation of false documents, completion of fraudulent benefit applications and theft of identities. To combat unlawful employment and reduce vulnerabilities that help illegal aliens gain such employment, the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program was initiated in 2007. 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. ICE says the IMAGE program assists employers.
IMAGE Program Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
By voluntarily participating in the IMAGE program, ICE believes companies can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. As part of IMAGE, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 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. Participation in IMAGE requires the employer to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) committing the employer to specified employment eligibility verification (EEV) responsibilities.
- Employers seeking to participate in IMAGE must first agree to submit to an I-9 audit by ICE.
- In order to ensure the accuracy of their wage reporting, employers must use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify the SSNs of their existing labor force.
- An employer must then commit to using the ICE "Best Hiring Practices.
- An employer must agree to participate in E-Verify.
- ICE will provide training and education to IMAGE partners on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection, and anti-discrimination laws.
IMAGE Best Hiring Practices Raises Concerns for Employers
Employers should carefully evaluate if IMAGE is a employment eligibility verification good porgram for their company. Immigration attorneys familar with employment eligibility verification and Form I-9 compliance have several concerns about client participation in IMAGE, which requires employers:
1. "Establish a self-reporting procedure for reporting to ICE any violations or discovered deficiencies, including a requirement to immediately reporting to ICE the discovery or allegations of any substantive criminal violations."
2. "Establish a tip line for employees to report activity relating to the employment of unauthorized aliens, and (establish) a protocol for responding to employee tips...and designate an IMAGE compliance officer if an employer has more than 50 employees."
3. Submit an annual report to ICE to track results and assess the effect of participation in the IMAGE program including the number of employees removed and denied employment as a result of IMAGE participation, organizational changes, and updated points of contact."
Given ICE's aggressive inspection powers under IMAGE an employer should seriously consider the consequences of implementing these practices.
IMAGE is NOT a "safe harbor" for employers. ICE has not indicated that IMAGE "partners" will not be subject to enforcement actions. E-Verify participants have been subject to worksite enforcement actions.