At least 21 people have been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on Wednesday after the agency conducted raids on almost 100 7-Eleven outlets in the country. The immigration agents entered a total of 98 7-Eleven stores in 17 U.S. states, as well as in the District of Columbia, right before dawn to investigate the owners and employees for immigration law violations.
The crackdown has been described by the Associated Press as “the largest immigration action against an employer” under the presidency of Donald Trump.
The immigration agents interviewed 7-Eleven workers and investigated their immigration status. They were also asked to produce valid green cards, according to AP. The owners of the 7-Eleven outlets were also subjected to employment audits as they were asked to produce hiring records in three days as was the case with a certain 7-Eleven store in Koreatown in Los Angeles.
Derek Benner, the acting executive associate director for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, indicated that the Wednesday raid was only the first of many, which will be conducted while Trump is president.
“This is what we’re gearing up for this year, and what you’re going to see more and more of these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters,” Benner told the Associated Press.
Benner also said that the agency will not only target large companies like 7-Eleven “or any particular industry – big, medium and small.”
“It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there,” Benner continued.
Thomas D. Homan, Acting Director of the ICE, indicated in a statement that the raids on 7-Eleven will hopefully convince erring employers to abide by immigration laws.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce,” Homan said. “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
It is not clear why the immigration agency started with the convenience store chain. 7-Eleven Stores Inc., the Texas-based parent company of the more than 60,000 franchises all over the world, released a statement saying it knew of the crackdown. It also said that the hiring and verifying of a prospective store worker eligibility to be employed rests on the owner of the 7-Eleven outlet.
The raids were done specifically to catch erring business owners, though a total of 21 workers were apprehended. Those arrested came from 7-Eleven branches in 17 states, specifically, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, And Washington, as well as in Washington, D.C., Newsweek reported.
The arrested 7-Eleven workers were taken in and are now being investigated for the possibility of entering the country illegally. The immigration agency will take a closer look at the cases and decide whether they will warrant administrative action or criminal investigations, according to Benner.
Benner further indicated that the immigration agency will “take some very aggressive steps in terms of criminal investigations” to make sure that employers will be compliant with the country’s immigration policies, which have been one of the main advocacies of the Trump presidency.