The Trump administration, likely in a show of force signifying a new direction in the approach toward illegal immigration, authorized ICE raids on 98 different 7-Eleven stores, making 21 arrests Wednesday morning.
The raids have been described as “a warning to other companies that may have unauthorized workers on their payroll.”
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” said Thomas D. Homan, the agency’s top official, in a statement.
Homan characterized the operation as a new front in the Trump administration’s broader immigration crackdown and its effort to increase deportations. ICE agents have made 40 percent more arrests in the past year.
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet,” Homan’s statement said. “ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
7-Eleven’s corporate office said it is not responsible for the hiring decisions of individual franchise owners even as the chain stores are becoming known for harboring and hiring illegal immigrants. The states affected in Wednesday’s sweep include California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
According to the Washington Post, almost 8 in 10 Americans said in a new poll from Washington Post-ABC News that employers should be mandated to validate immigration status of new hires. Additionally, the poll found a majority of Democrats (65 percent) and Republicans (93 percent) would support that mandate.
The new sweep is said to be building off a similar raid in 2013 in New York where a Long Island man who managed 5 different 7-Eleven stores was sentenced to 4 years in prison for wire fraud, alien harboring and identify theft, according to officials.
Derek Benner, an ICE official, said Wednesday’s operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come.”
“This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation,” said Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.