Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn on Wednesday, with inspections taking place in California, the national capital, and 17 other states.
According to Politico.com, seven agents filed into a Los Angeles outlet shortly before dawn. Ordering customers and a beer delivery driver to wait outside, the officers shook down the cashier for a green card.
Twenty minutes later, the investigation turned up nothing – the employee on-site was legally authorized to work within the United States. Before leaving, I.C.E. officials asked the owner to produce hiring records showing that each and every worker is properly documented.
The employment audits and interviews conducted in each 7-Eleven franchise, writes Politico, is indicative of the Trump administration’s ever-more aggressive stance toward immigration.
Since his inauguration, deportations and immigration-related detainments have skyrocketed. Compared to Barack Obama – whose policies earned him the nickname “Deporter-in-Chief” – Trump has been arresting and sending away 40% more aliens than his predecessor.
A top official at I.C.E. said the raids were “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come.”
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses to that hire and employ an illegal workforce,” said I.C.E. Acting Director Thomas D. Homan in a statement. “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
But Homan didn’t explain why immigration officials were targeting 7-Eleven stores for its first round of document shake-downs.
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we are working hard to remove this magnet,” said Homan. “ICE will continue its efforts to project jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
Another top ICE official, Derek Benner, said future endeavors won’t just target large corporations and national franchises – small businesses and companies of every size could be slated to ensure compliance with federal immigration law.
NBC News provided an excerpt of 7-Eleven’s corporate statement, which stressed its awareness of the raids while downplaying its consequences for top brass.
Each franchise, the statement said, is run by “independent business owners” who are “solely responsible for their employees, including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.”
“7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws.”
The raids, NBC says, probably grew out of a 2013 ICE investigation into nine 7-Eleven franchises in Virginia and New York. By the end of it, agents found employers had utilized more than two-dozen stolen identities to employ over 100 illegal immigrants.
Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said the raids were an encouraging sign that the Trump administration is willing to go after employers who exploit illegal immigrants as well as individual aliens themselves. His enthusiasm, though, was tempered by caution, with Krikorian saying the president would have to eventually move beyond audits and fines.
“It’s important for Trump to show that they’re not just arresting the hapless schmo from Honduras but also the politically powerful American employer,” he said.