Chicken, beef and pork processing giantTyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark.,  said it became the first major food company to become a full member of the IMAGE program withU.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Officials said IMAGE stands for ‘ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.’ They said the program enables businesses -- if they meet rigorous standards -- to voluntarily partner with the federal government to ensure they are employing people who are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Tyson Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Ken Kimbro was in Washington, D.C., to announce the agreement.

“We believe our participation confirms to our customers, plant communities and others that Tyson uses best hiring practices to maintain a lawful workforce," he said. "We also believe this partnership will enhance our ability to collaborate with government officials on immigration-related matters.”

"ICE’s collaboration with Tyson Foods illustrates this administration’s commitment to working with industry to encourage a culture of compliance with U.S. employment laws ," said ICE Director John Morton. “Tyson Foods is setting the gold standard for Fortune 500 companies everywhere, and ICE is proud to be partnering with the company in this significant effort to protect our nation’s lawful workforce.” 

Tyson said it employs nearly 100,000 people at locations throughout the United States. To become certified, the company made all of its Form I-9 employment eligibility documents available for ICE review, cooperated with government field audits of selected plant locations and also allowed ICE to check the Social Security numbers of all company employees.

Kimbro said the certification process gave Tyson an opportunity to show how the company is already using best hiring practices.

“We use all available tools provided by the U.S. government to verify the documents of the people we hire,” he said.  “We also go beyond government-provided tools in our verification efforts.  In fact, 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.”  

Officials said anyone can visit Tyson's website to see a video outlining Tyson’s employment verification efforts.  Click on .  The video appears on the right side of the page. 

In addition to government tools, Tyson said it also has taken its own measures, which include:

    * Training all of its employment managers on the hiring process, proper completion of the Form I-9 and on document examination and fraud detection.

    * Permitting only salaried managers who have been trained to conduct job interviews and certify Form I-9’s.  All hiring managers are re-certified through an I-9 certification test on a yearly basis.

    * Maintaining an internal website with immigration-related information and tools hiring managers can use at any time.  This includes I-9 certification training as well as links to important government websites with information about employment verification.

    * Regularly auditing its Form I-9s, as well as its hiring process.  These internal audits are conducted on a weekly, semi-annual and annual basis by the location and by corporate Human Resources representatives. 

    * Using an independent, outside company – with expertise in immigration matters – to conduct its own audits of the company's hiring practices. 

    * Maintaining a “Help Line” anyone within the company can use to report unauthorized workers or illegal activity.

    * If company officials learn an employee may not be authorized to work in this country, immediate measures are taken.  If the worker involved is unable to correct any discrepancies in their documents, he or she is released from employment.

    * Tyson also has a protocol for any ‘no match’ letters it receives from the Social Security Administration.  Such letters are promptly addressed and situation is tracked until resolved.

    * Tracking identity fraud trends and enforcement actions and communicating those to hiring managers.  This ensures diligence in the face of changing identity fraud trends in the communities and the industries where Tyson operates.