With high-profile workplace immigration raids making news across the U.S., many employers might not seem eager to sit face-to-face with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and open up their books for scrutiny, reports the Houston Chronicle. Still, Betsy Kippenhan of the Houston-based staffing firm Talent Tree, seemed downright excited about it, speaking fondly of the “ICE advocate” who will be helping the company verify its worker eligibility through the ICE program “IMAGE.”
Some immigration attorneys and labor advocates warned that IMAGE could be a legal trap for employers who haven’t been vigilant examining workers I-9 forms, which establish eligibility to work in the U.S. In exchange for free education and training, companies in IMAGE (Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers) agree to use the federal government’s Internet-based employment verification system and check workers’ Social Security numbers. Employers also must agree to an ICE audit of workers’ employment paperwork and promise to self-report any violations of hiring law. ICE has stepped up its worksite enforcement, reporting 3,900 arrests for immigration violations and more than 1,000 criminal arrests from worksite enforcement investigations in the past 10 months.