With a few signatures, Milford Selectmen authorized an agreement Monday that will make the town a leader in working with immigration authorities to ensure its employees are eligible to work in the U.S.
The town is the first in New England to approve an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement that will screen employees. will send all I-9 forms submitted by town employees through the ICE databases.
The partnership is largely symbolic, in that town officials say they do not expect to find that any town government or school employees are working here illegally. But it is intended to set an example for private businesses, who may provide the jobs that attract illegal immigrants to town.
Many town residents have become more outspoken and visibly frustrated with illegal immigration, and its impacts on Milford, in the past year, since the Aug. 20, 2011 death of Matthew Denice.
was killed while riding his motorcyle, after a man who police say was driving while intoxicated, and living in the U.S. illegally, collided with him, then dragged him in the road. The man was arrested after fleeing the scene.
Denice's death triggered a series of events, including a meeting among , and a citizen's protest of illegal immigration. In signing on with the IMAGE Program, town officials say they are doing what they can to encourage compliance with federal immigration law.
Removing the incentive of a job is a part of that, said Brian Murray, chairman of the Milford Selectmen. "The undocumented worker situation is something that truly plagues this country," Murray said.
Milford has 1,500 employees, including school and municipal workers.
According to an ICE release, the IMAGE Program was created in 2006 to encourage employers to maintain a secure, stable workforce. The program includes training for employers in using employment screening tools, such as E-verify. The IMAGE employers undergo an annual audit of their employees' I-9 forms, to ensure they're eligible to work in the U.S.
To date, nine towns or cities, and 170 employers in the U.S. have enrolled in the program, said Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of ICE's homeland security investigations in Boston.
"The town of Milford is making the right choice here," Foucart said, before signing the paperwork. "The town of Milford wants to do the right thing, for all the right reasons."
Editor's Note: Employers, including businesses and town or city governments, who are interested in learning more about the IMAGE program can call the HSI office in Boston at (617) 565-6286 or visit the home page at www.ICE.gov/IMAGE.