Mississippi health care company receives IMAGE certification

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. — A Mississippi health care company became the state's latest employer to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Monday as part of a nationwide program designed to strengthen hiring practices and combat the unlawful employment of unauthorized workers.

Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative (SeMRHI) became the state's fifth employer to receive certification as an ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) partner during a ceremony at the company's headquarters Monday. IMAGE is a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

"I'm pleased to welcome Southeast Mississippi Rural Health Initiative as an IMAGE partner," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New Orleans. "When employers make a proactive commitment to hire and maintain a lawful workforce, it's good for their business, their customers and the community as a whole."

Parmer oversees a five-state area of operations to include Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.

SeMRHI was founded in 1979 for the purpose of improving the health status of rural residents of Mississippi. SeMRHI's mission is to provide access to affordable quality primary and preventative health care in a patient centered, safe, compassionate environment. SeMRHI has 14 community health centers that serve the Pinebelt area and surrounding communities, and 19 part-time school clinics.

Undocumented workers can create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits, and stealing the identities of legal U.S. workers. To combat this, ICE initiated the IMAGE program nationwide in 2006.

As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides private companies with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including the use of employment screening tools such as E-Verify. IMAGE certified companies also undergo an audit of their I-9 forms to ensure current employees are eligible to work in the United States.

Mississippi-area employers interested in learning more about the IMAGE program may contact the local IMAGE coordinator at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or visit www.ICE.gov/image.

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