Immigration enforcement officers stormed into nearly 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide in an unprecedented search for undocumented workers under President Donald Trump, CNN reported on Wednesday.
“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,” Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director, said in a statement.
ICE said that officers targeted 7-Eleven stores in Washington, D.C., and 17 states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.
It’s the largest worksite enforcement operation against an employer under President Trump, ICE said, adding that “it is only getting started.”
“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,” Derek Benner, acting executive associate director for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, told the Associated Press. “It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small. It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”
The enforcement effort at 7-Eleven comes with some irony. The company’s president and CEO, Joseph DePinto, contributed $2,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, federal records show.
The raids came hours after U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco blocked a Trump administration move to end protections for children brought to the country illegally by their parents.
7-Eleven, in a statement, sought to distance itself from the hiring practices of store owners.
“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,” the company said. “This means that all store associates in a franchised store are employees of the franchisee and not 7-Eleven Inc.”
The company added that it “takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws.”
Derek Benner said these kinds of sweeps will become more common during the Trump presidency.
“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 told the AP. “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.”