Tampa, Florida -- A local company is joining a nationwide initiative to cut back on hiring illegal immigrants. It's a program that could see a huge expansion after the election.

TheIMAGE program should help keep companies out of trouble with labor laws.

And it makes it easier forImmigration and Customs Enforcement to help employers with their hiring process.

This is an important time to talk about this, because if Mitt Romney is elected president in six weeks, we could see a big push for programs like this.

IMAGE is a voluntary program that your company can sign up for.

It's essentially a set of guidelines companies can follow to make sure they only hire people who are authorized to work in the United States.

During the campaign, Governor Romney has said his immigration policy would focus on this: making it so tough for undocumented workers to find a job -- that they willingly go back to their home countries.

"We'd have a card that indicates who's here legally," Romneysaid during a debate with his Republican primary opponents.

"And if people are not able to have a card, and have that -- through an E-Verify system -- determine that they are here illegally, then they're gonna find they can't get work here."

"And if people don't get work here, they're going to self-deport to a place where they can get work."

President Obama's take?

TheWhite House website says people currently in the U.S. illegally should be able to stay, but "... get on the right side of the law by registering and undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line to become eligible for citizenship."

Wednesday, a produce distributor in Plant City will become the latest member of the IMAGE program.

It starts with using the government'sE-Verify online system to make sure workers are authorized to be in the United States. In all there are twelve steps IMAGE companies follow, from lining up yearly audits to setting up a tip box to for employees to report concerns.

There are three big reasons Immigration and Customs Enforcement says companies sign up for the IMAGE program:

- One is, well, your image. Being IMAGE certified helps companies avoid fallout and bad publicity from breaking employment laws.

- Joining IMAGE also helps companies avoid the fines and jail time that can come from breaking labor laws, since the IMAGE program gives companies guidelines on the right way to do things.

In fact, if a company's part of the IMAGE program and still has a problem with labor laws, that IMAGE membership may help lessen the fines they pay.

- And, finally, it is something an average person can do to help secure our borders and discourage illegal immigration.

The new IMAGE member will sign its paperwork Wednesday morning at the ICE office in Tampa. They'll join companies like TECO Energy, Tyson Foods, and Costco as IMAGE members.

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