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11-18-2012, 12:23 PM #1
When it comes to employees, ICE means business
Sunday, November 18, 2012
When it comes to employees, ICE means business
Aaron Nicodemus ON BUSINESS
It was interesting to see the coupling of two news items regarding immigration and business this week.
The first was that a nursing home in Milford, Countryside Health Care, has joined the town of Milford in “teaming up” with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for a program called IMAGE, or the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.
Most employers already know about E-Verify, a Web-based program that gives employers a direct link to the Social Security Administration that allows them to enter prospective employee's social security numbers to check if they are valid.
IMAGE is E-Verify on steroids. To quote ICE: “ICE provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including use of employment screening tools such as E-Verify. IMAGE certified employers also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.” (I-9 forms are filled out by employees to show that they are authorized to work).
IMAGE has not exactly taken off with employers since it was implemented in 2006. The list of “members and partners” of the program are at ice.gov/image.
While the list contains several hundred companies and municipalities, it is unbelievably short considering the total number of employers in this country. The town of Milford, and now Countryside Health Care, are among the only entities in New England to have signed up. And the program has been in existence for six years!
Most employers, when they choose to hire an employee, want to believe that that employee is allowed to work in this country. They ask the employee to show some form of identification and a valid social security number, because that is what is required by law. Given that the federal government cannot actively watch all employers as they hire employees, chances are the employee will be able to work whether or not he or she has legal papers.
But not with IMAGE. Every employee gets vetted carefully, no exceptions.
Randy Feldman, an immigration lawyer in Worcester, said in some industries half of a company's workforce would be knocked out if the company joined a program like IMAGE.
“It just hamstrings them,” Mr. Feldman said of employers. “If we had a fair immigration system, it would be a fair requirement. But we don't have a fair immigration system.”
The second news item that caught my eye was the ICE announcement of $349,619.54 in fines against Massachusetts companies for various employment operations. Two local companies were on the list. Danco Retail Food Outlet Inc. of Worcester was fined $935; and Fruitlands Restaurant Inc., aka Sorrento's Pizza, of Harvard was fined $2,805. Both companies denied the ICE claims in interviews with the Telegram & Gazette.
They got off easy. Other companies were fined tens of thousands of dollars.
Bruce Foucart, ICE special agent in the Boston office, said he could not comment specifically on the reasons why the two companies were fined. But typically, companies have filled out their I-9 forms falsely or incorrectly.
“The fines are handed down based on level of egregiousness of the violation. You have your low-end violation, and then there is your blatant, obvious alarming violation,” he said. “Filling out these forms incorrectly and having suspect documents will always lead to a fine. We also look into the cooperation of the company, and their willingness to join and comply with the IMAGE Program and E-Verify; it gives us a sense on how these companies are maintaining correct information. … ICE takes these violations seriously and will serve the necessary fines that are required.”
In 2009, under the Obama administration, ICE pivoted away from military-style raids of suspected employers of undocumented workers, and began focusing on auditing the records of employers.
According to ICE's press release, the agency issued $9,753 in fines to Massachusetts companies for worksite violations in 2009; $67,440 in 2010; $175,420 last year; and now almost $350,000.
The trend is clear. The federal government is working to hold employers accountable for the employees they hire, albeit a tiny percentage of them.
When the government asks companies to volunteer to have all their employee's I-9 forms audited, they find few takers.
Intern Sean Mensah contributed to the reporting of this column.
Contact Aaron Nicodemus by email at email@example.com .
DON'T REWARD THE CRIMINAL ACTIONS OF MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS
BY GIVING THEM CITIZENSHIP