ICE launches new fraud program with 3 employers

Three Rio Grande Valley employers have partnered with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to participate in an employment eligibility verification program that seeks to prevent undocumented people from using fraudulent documents to gain employment, according to a release from the agency.

ICE’s Homeland Securities Investigations welcomed three partners to the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program this week, according to the agency.

Those employers are the city of Weslaco, Palm Valley Health Care Inc., and Providencia Investments Group, in Harlingen.

The agency stated that “IMAGE is a nationwide program that assists employers, strengthens hiring practices, and curtails the employment of unauthorized workers through outreach, education, and partnership.”

“HSI is creating a culture of compliance by building cooperative relationships with employers who strengthen hiring practices and encourage compliance to ensure a lawful workforce,” the agency said.

Later in the document, ICE wrote that the agency launched IMAGE in 2006 to crack down on undocumented immigrants who may use fraudulent documents to gain employment in the United States.

“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 U.S. workers,” the agency wrote.

According to the release, employers who qualify for IMAGE certification must agree to a variety of conditions, including a “self-assessment of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by unauthorized workers”, enrollment in the agency’s “E-Verify” employment eligibility verification program, and IMAGE staff training and screening tools, and a Form I-9 audit by ICE.

The internet-based system is available throughout the nation and is free to employers, and the agency expects that “IMAGE certified” will become “an industry standard,” the agency wrote.

Additionally, IMAGE members will learn about the importance of avoiding discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision, according to the agency.