ICE fines New England companies hiring unlawful employees

BOSTON — Following an investigation and audit of Form I-9 documents by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), 14 New England employers have been fined this fiscal year for various violations that enabled companies to hire illegal aliens. The inspection of the employers' documents are part of ICE's worksite enforcement strategy, launched in 2009 to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce, by focusing its resources on the auditing and investigation of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by hiring workers who are later determined to be employed illegally.

Fines in the New England region include:

Jasper Wyman & Son, a company in Milbridge, Maine, accounted for $118,000 of the fine settlements;
Commercial Cleaning Service of Allston, Mass., was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine; and
D'Agostino Associates, Inc., Newton, Mass., was fined $22,792.

Nationally, from fiscal year 2009 to date, ICE has initiated Form I-9 inspections against nearly 4,000 businesses resulting in fines of nearly $7 million.

"These settlements serve as a reminder to employers that ICE will continue to hold them accountable for hiring and maintaining a legal and compliant workforce," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Boston. "We encourage companies to take the employment verification process seriously."

ICE is also reminding employers about their role in ensuring that they cultivate a legal workplace.

Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individual's identity and employment eligibility document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual. Additionally, an employer must ensure that the employee provides certain information regarding his or her eligibility to work on the Form I-9.

"We continue to focus our attention on companies that are knowingly employing illegal workers," Foucart added. "The goal is to have a legal, compliant workforce in New England, and to promote our IMAGE program."

ICE initiated the IMAGE, or, "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers" program in 2006. All IMAGE members must participate in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Through this program, employers can verify that newly hired employees are eligible to work in the United States. This Internet-based system is available throughout the nation and is free to employers. It provides an automated link to the Social Security Administration database and DHS immigration records.

Upon enrollment in and commitment to the IMAGE Best Employment Practices, program participants are deemed "IMAGE certified," a distinction DHS and ICE believe will become an industry standard. IMAGE also provides to all employers free training on the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, and building a solid immigration compliance model.