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USA immigration agents raid 7-Eleven stores
12 January 2018, 11:19 | Devin Moran
At the Break of Dawn, ICE Inspected Dozens of 7-Eleven Stores
Now that officials are focusing on store workers, employers are also at risk of facing criminal charges and even fines.
ICE said Wednesday's action was a follow-up to 7-Eleven raids in 2013 that led to the arrests of nine franchise owners and managers for hiring people without authorization to work in this country. ICE says they were arrested for conspiring to commit fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal aliens employed at their stores.
In a statement, ICE said it interviewed employees and managers in 18 states and Washington, D.C.
7-Eleven Stores Inc. operates more than 8,000 stores in the U.S. Representatives for Irving, Texas-based company have not publicly commented on the ICE audits.
Nationally, 21 people in 17 states were arrested and given notices to appear in immigration court, ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said. Illegal hiring is rarely prosecuted, because the cases are time-consuming and employers can often claim they were tricked with fraudulent documents. Administrative fines are discounted by some as a business cost.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, who recently told Fox News that officials in sanctuary city jurisdictions like San Francisco should face criminal charges for violating federal law, said in a statement that Wednesday's action was meant to send a message to employers.
Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp said ICE went to the store without notifying his department and the agents did not require assistance. "You're playing whack-a-mole." President George W. Bush's administration pursued high-profile criminal investigations against employers in its final years with dramatic pre-dawn shows of force and large numbers of worker arrests. Federal agents were looking for workers that were hired illegally. Last month, Trump commuted the 27-year prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, former chief executive of what was the nation's largest kosher meatpacking operation. During President Barack Obama, agents would conduct inspections of papers employers have to fill up about their workers' eligibility, called 1-9.
"We're here. We're ready to respond to any raids", he said. Eight of those franchisees wound up pleading guilty and getting slapped with $2.6 million in back wages.
A large number of 7-Eleven convenience stores in the United States are owned by Indian-Americans. There were 30 percent more immigration-related arrests in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to ICE's end-of-year report.
"We are going to be doing more of this work and dedicating more resources to make sure businesses are complying with the law", Bennett said.
The 7-Eleven sweeps reflect Trump's hardline stance on immigration, which led to a 43 percent uptick in arrests from 2016 to previous year. "They're going after the little guy", said Cortese.
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