In the largest-single crackdown operation, the U.S. Immigration and Customs, ICE officials raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores before dawn on Wednesday, arresting nearly 21 people under suspicion of living illegally in the country.
Immigration agents told the Associated Press the move was "the first of many" in an effort to broaden inland immigration crackdown which first started four years ago when a case was filed against a franchise on New York’s Long Island over the issue.
In Wednesday's operation, ICE targeted 98 stores in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, California, Florida, Missouri and several other states of over 8,600 stores of the Texas-based 7-Eleven chain. The agents opened employment audits, interrogated employees during the process.
Per the U.S. laws, it's illegal to hire undocumented workers. If charged the Irving, Texas-based company could be prosecuted and heavily fined for its hiring practices.
An ICE agent told the Washington Post that the company has three days to provide the legal documents of those arrested.
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration,” ICE head Thomas Homan said in a statement.
In 2013, nine 7-Eleven franchise owners were arrested for employing undocumented workers.
ICE-led arrests within the country rose by 40 percent in the first 100 days of Trump taking to the office, per government released numbers.
In May 2017, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency arrested 41,318 individuals between Jan. 22 of this year and the end of April, up from 30,028 arrests in roughly the same period last year.
Derek Benner, a top ICE official told the Associated Press that Wednesday's operation was "the first of many" and is a "harbinger of what’s to come" for employers, adding there would be more employment audits and investigations, though there is no numerical goal to be achieved.
Further adding, that the companies "will be required to produce documents showing they required work authorization."
"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. 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."