Seattle-area aerospace firm, Homeland Security partner to secure workforce

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SEATTLE — A Seattle-area aerospace company that supplies custom machined parts to customers in the aircraft interiors and airframe manufacturing sectors became the latest employer Thursday to partner with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to strengthen its hiring practices, reduce fraud and ensure it employs a legal workforce.

Universal Aerospace, Co., Inc., is now among the hundreds of businesses to sign on as an "IMAGE" or "ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers" partner. IMAGE is a voluntary program that allows businesses to partner with the agency to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. Universal Aerospace supplies companies including C&D Zodiac, B/E Aerospace and Jamco America.

"Our IMAGE partnerships enable HSI to foster best practices in the employment arena, and that, in turn, contributes to a safe and productive work environment," said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "When employers make a proactive commitment to hire and maintain a lawful workforce, it's good for their business and it's good for the community."

Over the next few months HSI special agents and I-9 auditors will work collaboratively with Universal Aerospace management to help them complete the IMAGE certification process. As part of this process, the company has voluntarily enrolled in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' free Internet-based employment eligibility system, E-Verify; it will establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal I-9 audits at least once a year; and will submit to a voluntary form I-9 inspection.

"Universal Aerospace is excited about this partnership because it speeds our process in becoming ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] compliant, which will allow us to do work for the government," said Talitha Bagtas, Universal Aerospace's controller. "More importantly we are proud to be a leader among Pacific Northwest aerospace companies in obtaining IMAGE certification."

Unauthorized workers can create vulnerabilities in today's marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits, and stealing identities of lawful workers who may be U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents or foreign nationals with valid work visas or other work authorizations. To combat this, ICE initiated the IMAGE program in 2006, which partners with employers in a wide range of industries, including employment services, aviation, transportation, construction, high technology, shipping and manufacturing.

As part of the IMAGE program, ICE provides private companies with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including 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.

Companies in Washington, Oregon or Alaska interested in obtaining more information about the IMAGE program are encouraged to contact HSI Seattle's IMAGE coordinator at 206-442-2200.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423 or complete our tip form.

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