The ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program is a joint government and private sector initiative that was introduced in July 2006 by the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help employers monitor with respect to complying with the federal immigration law’s prohibition against hiring workers who are ineligible to be employed in the United States. By voluntarily participating in the IMAGE program, 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.
What is expected from employers in joining the IMAGE program?
The following steps must be taken by employers who participate in IMAGE:
Complete a self-assessment questionnaire;
- Enroll in E-Verify;
- Enroll in the Social Security Number Verification Service;
- Adhere to IMAGE Best Employment Practices;
- Undergo an I-9 audit conducted by ICE;
- Review and sign an official IMAGE partnership agreement with ICE.
Concerns in IMAGE Program
Various government reports have been issued that support the finding that DHS and SSA databases contain inaccurate and outdated information, which result in employment-eligible workers being denied employment, therefore the program’s requirement that employers verify their employees’ Social Security numbers through the SSNVS and verify their employment eligibility through the Basic Pilot are of particular concern. Another concern raised is the possibility of pre-screening job applicants or using the IMAGE program to discriminate based on race or color.
Even though the benefits are numerous in enrolling in the IMAGE program, employers should consider all aspects before committing to anything.
Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.