At least 21 people were arrested and ordered to appear in immigration court during a nationwide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation that targeted 7-Eleven franchises Wednesday morning, which included locations in four Bay Area counties.
Some 98 of the convenience stores nationwide - from Los Angeles to New York - were targeted by agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whose top official described the raids as a warning to other companies that may have unauthorized employees on their payrolls.
Smith cited the active investigation for not providing those details. ICE agents can serve a notice of inspection to alert businesses that officials are going to audit their hiring records to check for compliance with the law.
"From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigations". He said there would be more employment audits and investigations to come. Each franchise, it explained, is run by "independent business owners" who are "solely responsible for their employees, including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility 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 statement continued. In 2008, agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained nearly 400 workers. "This is a demonstration of our commitment to enforcing the law". The raids come as President Trump promised to increase scrutiny of immigration policies and to especially increase deportations of undocumented residents staying in the U.S.
Further adding, that the companies "will be required to produce documents showing they required work authorization".
"Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet", he added in a statement today.
Irving-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 64,000 stores in 18 countries, including 10,900 in North America. All but one, who was a fugitive until November 2017, pleaded guilty, and they were forced to pay more than $2.6 million in back wages. "We also know that workers have rights in this country, regardless of immigration status". "The audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over the stores' hiring practices". Agents told arriving customers that the store was closed briefly for a federal inspection.
This was the biggest worksite operation conducted since Trump took office, according to ICE.
When asked about what had happened, Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp said, "it was something with paperwork between the 7-11 and the government".