On Wednesday morning, immigration agents raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores before dawn.
The agents interviewed workers and opened employment audits in a raid that, according to the New York Daily News, was meant to target employers more than employees, though 21 people were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally.
Derek Benner, a top official at US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Associated Press that the operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come.”
What’s more, Benner said, there was no numeric goal for the immigration push.
“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. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation,” said Benner, who is the acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.
“It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big, medium and small,” he said. “It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”
Will ICE be targeting Trump Hotels and Properties for undocumented workers the same way they just raided 7-Elevens???? #7eleven
— Ford Thatford (@mrford0) January 10, 2018
The raids are meant to send a message to employers
According to immigration officials, Wednesday’s operation, and future operations, will deter employers from hiring illegal immigrants.
“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.”
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businessses 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,” ICE Acting Director Tom Homan also said in a statement.
7-Eleven was particularly targeted by immigration officials because of a 2013 investigation that revealed employers had used false identities to hire illegal immigrants and pay them less than minimum wage.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 10, 2018