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Tyson foods enters Homeland Security employment program

Tyson Foods, one of the country's largest food processing companies, on Thursday joined a voluntary Homeland Security Department program to ensure that the people it hires are in the country legally. Tyson has at various times been at the center of immigration-related inquiries for hiring undocumented workers. The food processing industry in general is notorious for employing illegal workers, in part because the unpleasant nature of the work deters many Americans from applying.

DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement also is creating a new center with 15 additional auditors to conduct large-scale audits of the nation's major employers, like Tyson. "Tyson has 100,000 employees in the United States. That's a lot of forms. That's a lot of records to verify," said ICE Director John Morton.

ICE already employs 137 full-time auditors to check the workforce status of various companies. The new auditors will focus on major investigations of the biggest U.S. companies, Morton said.

Morton said ICE audited 2,200 companies for compliance with immigration hiring laws last year, which is the largest number of audits the agency has ever conducted.

Morton will likely need to repeat those figures before members of Congress. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has been critical of the administration's efforts to enforce immigration laws at the worksite. Smith wants to make it mandatory for employers to enroll in DHS's voluntary E-Verify program, in which companies check their new hires' legal status against Social Security Administration and DHS databases.

By entering DHS's voluntary "Image" program, Tyson will enroll in E-Verify, allow an internal DHS audit of its employees, and go through internal compliance training. Tyson Senior Vice President Ken Kimbro said his company decided to join the program to enhance its ability to collaborate with federal enforcers on immigration policies.

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