Federal immigration agents targeted nearly 100 7-Eleven stores across the nation 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 in 17 states, including California, and in the District of Columbia, officials said.
“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.”