After a nationwide raid by U.S. immigration officials on dozens of 7-Eleven stores, 21 people have been arrested in what is being deemed the largest operation against an employer under the current administration.
According to The Guardian, nearly 100 convenience stores were targeted nationwide by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where workers were interviewed and audits on employees were initiated.
The crackdown was in response to the franchise allegedly having unauthorized employees on their payrolls, with the audits possibly leading to fines or even criminal charges over the unethical hiring practices.
ICE officials are hopeful the raids will “send a strong message” and change the minds of those who are willing to risk their company by hiring undocumented workers.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce,” said Thomas D. Homan, ICE’s Acting Director. “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration,” he added. “And we are working hard to remove this magnet.”
Homan claims that the continued efforts by ICE help protect American workers by effectively eliminating the “unfair competitive advantages” companies cause by exploiting illegal immigration.
The immigration agency gave managers and franchise owners three days to provide information on the immigration status of their employees before clearing stores in 17 states as well as Washington, D.C.
The action seems to be part of President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement expansion, where a sharp 40 percent increase in deportation arrests has already been reported just this past year.
And the operation, according to top ICE official Derek Benner, is only the first of many to come this upcoming year, though he added that there was no numerical goal officials are seeking.
“This is what we’re gearing up for this year,” Benner said. “What you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters.”
And though the large company, based in Irving, Texas with more than 8,600 stores nationwide, was the latest to come under pressure from the administration, it seems it won’t be the only — nor the last — franchise to do so.
“It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small,” Benner said. “It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”
The ICE official also added that the current administration is pursuing its own strategy for fighting illegal immigration that is different from it’s predecessors.
The current administration plans on spending money on a border wall with Mexico to amp up border security and lower the illegal immigration rate, as well as going after employers who are job magnets for undocumented workers — though Benner admits that some will get arrested in the process.
“We need to make sure that employers are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they’re being compliant,” Benner said.
“For those that don’t,” he added, “we’re going to take some very aggressive steps in terms of criminal investigations to make sure that we address them and hold them accountable.”
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