The Department of Homeland security is recruiting. The federal agency wants to partner with Arizona businesses who are willing to open up their doors, and their books, to the government.
So far almost 40 Arizona companies have accepted the invitation. Scott Brown, the Special Agent in Charge, called them "the best of the best."
The IMAGE program, whose full name is ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, began in 2006. Brown said it does exactly what the name implies.
"We provide companies with what we've discovered to be best practices, to have written hiring plans, plans for effective hiring systems like E-Verify, training in detecting fraudulent documents, doing self-audits, plus there's a public benefit to saying ICE says we're doing things right," said Brown.
He called it the "ICE stamp of approval.”
"I would say it's a very good proactive step to take, we can come and audit you whether you invite us or not," Brown said.
Daicel Corporation and SDI Inc. were two of the latest companies to join the program. SDI makes precision pyrotechnic products and has 400 employees here in the Valley. Daicel Corporation designs and manufactures airbag inflators, and has 200 employees in the area.
"Our intention is to be compliant and we do our own audits, but doing self-audits is like prescribing your own medication," said David Mason, the Director of Human Resources for SDI and Daicel Corporation.
The companies decided to enroll in the program after a recent audit, during which they learned about the program. Mason said for those who did not know what to look for, fraudulent documents could sometimes slip through the cracks.
"In fact, there was an employee we terminated because her document was fraudulent, and a year later we recognized her in another interview group and she had a different document," said Mason.
The program’s work to eliminate undocumented workers on staff means stability for the companies that sign up.
"Certainly there's stability, there are people we've discovered that the documents aren't correct, and you lose an employee that you've invested time and expense in training," said Mason.
Brown said the Department of Homeland Security would provide specialized training to companies to look for and identify fraudulent work documents.
"Certainly there are people who produce very high-quality fraudulent documents. We provide robust training to help employees identify those anomalies," said Brown.
He added that the department would prefer to work with employers rather than come into a business with an "enforcement" mind-set.
"We're looking to partner with good companies. If we can work with you to get you into compliance, it's a much better outcome than us coming after you civilly or criminally for maintaining bad practices," said Brown.
Businesses that hired undocumented workers also contribute to the bigger problems of identity theft, human trafficking and a violation of labor laws.
"When companies are employing an unauthorized workforce, there's often a lot of [other] labor law violations. They're not paying [their] workforce a fair wage, and they've got the leverage that they're unauthorized they can use over them," said Brown.
For companies interested in learning about the IMAGE program or looking to enroll, you can click on https://www.ice.gov/image or call the Phoenix office at 602-407-6155.
"This isn't about going after individuals, this is about going after bad practices, it's about protecting individuals be they legal or illegal," stressed Brown.