New York - Over 300 companies convened at the Alexander Hamilton Customs House Thursday for the 2018 IMAGE Training and Forum.  New York based businesses have participated in this forum, hosted by with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, to learn more about the benefits of joining the agency’s employment compliance program IMAGE, or “ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.”

The forum, aimed at fostering compliance through education and partnership, included welcoming remarks from HSI New York’s Special Agent in Charge, Angel M. Melendez, national IMAGE program manager, Jack Morris and Alex Sanchez from Tyson Foods Inc., an IMAGE member since January 2011.  Tyson Foods Inc., which employs almost 100,000 people at locations throughout the United States, was the first major food company to become a full member of ICE's IMAGE program.  They have partnered with HSI for more than seven years to collaborate on hiring best practices to ensure they are maintaining a lawful workforce.

“The worksite enforcement program is a key element in our immigration enforcement framework and protecting American business.  We are able to reduce the pull factor of unauthorized employment,” said Angel M.  Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York.  “The enforcement of worksite laws levels the playing field in business.  These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and strengthen public safety and national security.”

“We’re diligent about making sure the people we hire are legally eligible to work in the U.S, which is why use government tools like E-Verify and take additional measures such as employment document training and third-party audits of our hiring practices,” said Alex Sanchez, manager of EEO for Tyson Foods. “Collaborating with the government through the IMAGE program has helped confirm the proactive steps we’re taking to ensure compliance are effective.”

In addition to the training received at the forum, one company who had previously agreed to partner with HSI and the IMAGE program, took part in a signing ceremony at the conclusion of the day’s events.  Superior Washer & Gasket Corporation (Superior), headquartered in Hauppauge, New York, has been in business since 1972 with operating facilities in Hauppauge, NY and Rock Hill, South Carolina. Superior manufactures washers, shims, small stampings, and gaskets, including those that meet mil-spec, and places a great emphasis on quality control, to ensure that their products perform as designed. Superior employs approximately 110 people in total, split between the two locations.

Rob Lippolis, Vice-President of Superior represented the family-owned three-generation business at the signing ceremony, “The IMAGE program is directly aligned with our core beliefs as an American owned and operated manufacturing company. Superior Washer & Gasket Corp. is honored to be a formal member of the program.”

To qualify for IMAGE certification, partners agree to conduct a self-assessment of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized workers; enroll in E-verify, an employment eligibility verification program; train staff on IMAGE Best Employment Practices and the use of new screening tools; and undergo a Form I-9 audit by ICE.

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 United States 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 free training to all employers on the provisions surrounding the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.