Federal immigration agents targeted nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the U.S. for audits and inspections Wednesday morning in one of the most sweeping illegal immigration probes taken against an
employer under the Trump administration.
Twenty-one people were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents served inspection notices at convenience stores, officials said.
Agents went to 7-Eleven stores in California, Washington D.C., Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
“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,” acting ICE Director Thomas D. Homan said in a statement.
Officials said the probes were an extension of raids carried out under the Obama administration in 2013 against several 7-Eleven franchise owners who later pleaded guilty to operating an immigrant-exploitation scheme from their convenience stores.
Agents served 98 7-Eleven franchises with notices of inspections of the stores’ I-9 immigration forms, which employers are required to maintain on their employees’ status, and interviewed workers and managers Tuesday.
In a statement, 7-Eleven said franchise owners, not the corporation, are responsible for verifying whether potential employees are eligible to work in the United States. “As part of the 7-Eleven franchise agreement, 7-Eleven requires all franchise business owners to comply with all federal, state and local employment laws,” the company said in a statement.
“This obligation requires 7-Eleven franchisees to verify work eligibility in the U.S. for all of their prospective employees prior to hiring. 7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws.”
ICE will also continue to use I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law.
ICE added: “Under the current administration, all workers encountered during these investigations who are unauthorized to remain in the U.S. are subject to administrative arrest and removal from the country.