Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide before dawn on Wednesday to open employment audits and interview workers. These audits could potentially lead to criminal charges or fines over the stores’ hiring practices. Agents arrested 21 people suspected of being undocumented, although ICE claims the action is claimed at management.
The operation resulted from a 2013 investigation that resulted in charges against nine 7-Eleven franchises and managers in New York and Virginia, in which they were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million back in wages.
Derek Benner, a top official at ICE told The Associated Press that the operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers, citing there would be more employment audits and investigations.
“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. “From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation.”
He also said it won’t be limited to any particular type of industry or company, it would be “inclusive” of everything they see — interesting choice of words there. Illegal hiring is rarely prosecuted because investigations are time-consuming and convictions are difficult because employers can claim to be tricked by fake documents.
“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, 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.”
This is only a sliver of 45’s expansion of immigration enforcement which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests and of course, build the infamous border wall.