Twenty-one people have been arrested by United States immigration agents after raiding dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide in what has been the Trump administration’s biggest crackdown on a company suspected of hiring undocumented foreign workers.
Around 98 branches of the convenience store chain have been targeted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) across 17 states and Washington D.C. The agency gave the store managers and franchise owners three days to provide the immigration status of their employees.
According to the law enforcement agency, companies with unauthorized immigrants in their payroll should take these raids as a warning.
“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, in a statement. “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
Homan added that employment opportunities offered by businesses that hire illegal workers are a factor that drives illegal immigration. “ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration,” the acting director added.
According to Derek N. Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, these kinds of raids will be more common this year. “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,” he said.
Benner also said that the scope of the inspections will not be limited to large companies, but it will include “everything that we see out there.”
The Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Stores Inc. said in a statement that it was aware of the raids, but clarified that its franchises are independent, and the franchise owners are the ones responsible for hiring their employees and verifying their eligibility for employment.
Federal statistics show that under the Trump administration, arrests of suspected illegal immigrants have risen by 40 percent.