A notice of inspection alerts business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether or not they are in compliance with the law.
ICE is temporarily shutting down 7-Eleven stores in the District of Columbia and in 17 states including California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
Under President Donald Trump, ICE has stepped up its efforts to arrest and deport illegal immigrants in the US.
A top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the audits were "the first of many" and "a harbinger of what's to come" for employers... The acting head of ICE division of Homeland Security Investigations stated, "This is what we're gearing up for this year, and what you're going to see more and more of - these large-scale compliance inspections". "From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation".
"It's not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry - big, medium and small", he said.
7-Eleven Franchisees are independent business owners and are exclusively responsible for their employees including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.
ICE said Wednesday's operations were a "follow-up" on a into 7-Eleven franchises, according to a statement.
In a 2013 similar raid of 7-Eleven stores in NY and Virginia, ICE arrested nine people, including eight Muslims. "Sometimes the employer hires illegal immigrants deliberately, because they are cheaper, and employers treat them badly". "This creates a huge stir and people around the country are saying, 'Oh my God.' It makes immigrants feel uncomfortable in their own skin". In 2008, agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained almost 400 workers.
The acting director of ICE had even more stern language to deliver.
Wednesday's operation arose from a 2013 investigation that resulted in charges against nine 7-Eleven franchisees and managers in NY and Virginia. All but one pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million. 7-Eleven, the parent company, knew about the raids well in advance and a had a corporate statement prepared.
GONZALES: Critics say workplace enforcement actions during the George W. Bush administration were not effective.
An ICE spokesman said the move sent a "strong message" to businesses that chose to employ undocumented staff. If you wanted to strike fear into the hearts of employers, you wouldn't do it with a dawn raid, you'd do it with an afternoon press conference before the close of the bell.
Both approaches have their shortcomings, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower levels of legal and illegal immigration. But, he said, the administration would need to go beyond audits. This operation is the largest operation against an employer under the Trump administration. They didn't arrest any store owners... no, those investigations are still "ongoing".