WEST LIBERTY, Iowa — West Liberty Foods LLC (WLF) became the first Iowa-based business to be certified as a partner in a nationwide program with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to ensure a legal and more secure work force during a May 17 signing ceremony held at the company’s corporate headquarters.

Officials from both parties agreed to partner in the “IMAGE” or "ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers" program. IMAGE is a voluntary program allowing private industry to partner with ICE. It is designed to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

“By volunteering to become members of IMAGE, companies can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents," said Mike Feinberg, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Bloomington, Minn.

WLF fulfilled the following requirements to qualify for this certification:

  • Conducted self-assessments of its hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by illegal aliens.
  • Enrolled in employment eligibility verification programs, such as E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service.
  • Trained its staff on IMAGE Best Employment Practices and how to use the new screening tools.
  • Underwent a Form I-9 employment eligibility verification audit conducted by ICE.

“The IMAGE program is the best way we can ensure our team members are eligible for employment,” said Tara Lindsay, WLF vice president of human resources. “This is an innovative program and represents our commitment to be a leader in the area of hiring and employment practices in our industry and in the state of Iowa.”

Although achieving certification was a rigorous process, the decision to participate in IMAGE was an easy one, Lindsay said, because it demonstrates the company’s commitment to the highest standards of cooperation and compliance with federal authorities in the hiring of the most stable, secure and fully documented workforce possible.

IMAGE members must participate in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Employers can verify through this program all newly hired employees are eligible to work in the US. This Internet-based system is available throughout the US 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 free training on the Form I-9, fraudulent document detection, anti-discrimination and on building a solid immigration compliance model.

“Nationally, West Liberty Foods is among the early adopters qualifying for the IMAGE certified status,” Feinberg said. “Doing so puts them in select company enhancing the reputation of their company and their brand."