Costco teams up with ICE to make sure they hire legal workers - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Costco teams up with ICE to make sure they hire legal workers

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KENNEWICK, Wash. -- E-verify and immigration are hot topics for many employers in Washington, and one of the country's biggest retailers has teamed up with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to make sure everyone working for them  is doing so legally.

Costco Wholesale is an international company based out of Issaquah, Washington, and they've been using these strict hiring practices in other states since 2008, when it was required in places like Arizona.

In March of 2010, they decided to spread the practices across the country, including their home state of Washington. They're voluntarily participating in a program called IMAGE, which stands for ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers.

That means their hiring department gets trained by government agents on how to spot potentially fake documents, like I-9 forms.   Costco also uses E-verify to screen social security numbers.

"It protects the company because you don't feel that you're at risk of having someone come in after the fact and second guess your practices. You've got it done right the first time," says Joel Benoliel, the Senior VP of Costco.

ICE officials hope that Costo's participation will encourage other employers to jump on board. Since starting five years ago, the IMAGE program only has 100 employer members nationwide, including Tyson Foods.

In Washington, there are only 12 participating employers..  Costco Wholesale employs 140,000 people nationwide and 315 at their Kennewick store.