Tyson Foods, Inc. and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) jointly announced Thursday that Tyson is the first major food company to enroll in the IMAGE program.
IMAGE, or ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, is a voluntary partnership between the federal government and American employers who agree to promote immigration compliance by meeting ICE standards.
"The purpose is to promote the use of good hiring practices among U.S. businesses to ensure they employ only those individuals who are legally authorized to work in this country, whether they are citizens or not," ICE director John Morton said Thursday during a teleconference call from Washington, D.C. announcing the partnership.
Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Inc. employees more than 100,000 people nationwide, including about 2,400 at Tyson Fresh Meats in Joslin.In 1997, federal agents arrested more than 100 illegal immigrants working at the Joslin plant, one of several times over the years the plant was raided.
Tyson's participation in the IMAGE program will have no direct, measurable impact on the Joslin workforce, said senior vice president and chief human resources officer Ken Kimbro.
Participation in IMAGE means Tyson Foods has agreed to what Mr. Morton called "good hiring practices," which include enrolling in theonline government employment verification program E-Verify. Tyson has voluntarily used E-Verify since 1998, officials said.
"We use all available tools provided by the U.S. government to verify the documents of the people we hire," Mr. Kimbro said. "We also go beyond government-provided tools in our verification efforts.
"We've spent millions of dollars over the years on such things as training, computer systems and help from outside consultants to make sure we're employing people who are authorized to work in our country."
Other IMAGE requirements include allowing ICE to audit the company's I-9 employment verification forms and allowing ICE to establish internal hiring training programs. Tyson Foods entered IMAGE voluntarily. No business will be required by the federal government to participate, Mr. Morton said.
"I want to particularly congratulate Tyson Foods for setting a standard for other Fortune 500 companies...," he said. "The public can and should reward companies that follow the law.It is not OK to gain a competitive advantage over another company by breaking the law."
ICE is not singling out companies within the meat-packing industry, but is encouraging participation from all industries, Mr. Morton said.
"ICE is committed to creating a culture of compliance among U.S. employers," he said. "Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of employers want to comply with the law. Our job here is simply to help them do that."
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