U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently encouraged more companies and entrepreneurs to participate in its IMAGE program in order to eliminate illegal workers and crack down on fake credentials.
IMAGE, ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, is an ICE program intended to be beneficial to both ICE and to companies. Essentially, in exchange for opening its books up for ICE to examine, companies will be rewarded with reduced fines and an enhanced image. It is a voluntary compliance program which will help curtail the employment of illegal workers.
While not all businesses may want to invite government agencies into their workplace, IMAGE may be a way for a company to self-report its issues that it has discovered in exchange for little to no punishment and a certification that they are compliant. For example, last year, Velie Law Firm assisted a client under investigation from ICE to utilize IMAGE, and it actually resulted in no fines and a cooperative relationship with ICE that translated into an extended period to address suspect employees. Today, the company is still in business and has developed a compliant workplace culture.
Partnering with ICE can lead to fewer future 1-9 audits, which in turn leads to less drops in productivity; if ICE finds an unauthorized employee during a regular 1-9 audit, productivity, especially for smaller companies where each employee is proportionally more important than in a larger company, may experience a sudden drop while the company scrambles to hire and train replacements. Additionally, partnering with ICE via the IMAGE program can allow a company to grow and promote itself via its “ICE certified” status.
Applying for IMAGE certainly seems to be a good option today, especially with harsher fines and ever increasing 1-9 audits for companies. In 2008, ICE performed 503 1-9 audits; in 2011, that number has risen to nearly 2500 — five times as many. With a higher risk of a normal 1-9 audit, the potential gains of fewer and less extreme fines that come with IMAGE membership looks to be more and more beneficial.
Requirements for IMAGE were simplified earlier this year, after an aggressive push by ICE to implement this program with more businesses and companies around the country. To enroll in the program, companies must do the following: register for the federal E-Verify program; agree for ICE to audit their I-9 forms and other documents; set up an employment verification policy with annual internal audits; and agree to partner with ICE.
Watch the archived Ascentis/Velie Law Compliance Webinar by clicking here.
Today’s guest blog post comes from immigration attorney, Jon Velie.
Jon Velie is owner and President of Velie Law Firm, one of the nation’s premier immigration and corporate law offices. Doing business as Velie Law Firm and OnlineVisas.Com, Jon Velie has represented world renowned athletes and entertainers, and major corporations such as Tyson Foods and Lucent’s Bell Laboratories.
Jon has testified in court as an expert in immigration, has briefed three cases to the United States Supreme Court, as well as winning a Washington DC Court of Appeals case labeled “the most significant civil rights case in the 21st Century”. He has addresses US Congressional and agency panels as well as universities across the United States.