Sixteen New York City 7-Eleven stores were among 98 franchises targeted Wednesday across the country for immigration enforcement inspections to check the status of their employees, federal authorities said.
The surprise audits by agents of Homeland Security Investigations, part of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency, followed a 2013 Long Island probe that resulted in the arrests of 7-Eleven store owners and managers of 14 convenience stores on the Island and Virginia.
In the latest sweeps, ICE said that 21 individuals suspected of being in the country illegally were arrested and cited to immigration court for their violations. The investigation is continuing and could lead to criminal charges.
The agency cast the operation as part of the tough enforcement approach that’s been at the heart of immigration policies under President Donald Trump, though previous administrations had conducted these types of inspections.
“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,” said a statement issued by Thomas D. Homan, ICE deputy director. “Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
The 7-Eleven Inc. chain, which has its corporate office in Irving, Texas, and bills itself as the “World’s Largest Convenience Retailer,” says local franchise owners are responsible for making sure employees they hire are eligible to work legally in the United States.
A statement from the company said in part: “7-Eleven Franchisees are independent business owners and are solely responsible for their employees including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States. This means that all store associates in a franchised store are employees of the Franchisee and not 7-Eleven, Inc.”
The company’s franchisee agreement “requires all franchise business owners to comply with all federal, state and local employment laws,” said the statement from 7-Eleven. “7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven store Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Carlson