ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Immigration compliance is top of mind for many convenience retailers after last month’s raid by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) agents on 100 7-Eleven stores. As a result of that operation, more than 20 people have been arrested, and ICE officials have publicly said more such engagements would come in the future.
How can retailers prepare for a potential encounter with ICE? During the free NACS webinar, “How Retailers Can Prepare for Immigration Raids,” former ICE Director Julie Myers Wood and former ICE Executive Deputy Associate Director John Connolly offered guidance on what convenience store operators should do now ahead of any future encounters with ICE.
The Trump administration is focused on increasing enforcement and compliance with immigration regulations. The new ICE comprehensive worksite strategy has a three pronged approach that includes inspections, fines and debarments; arrest of both employers and employees; and outreach and education through programs like IMAGE.
“ICE is trying to show a balance between enforcement and strategy,” Connolly said. But he cautioned that “ICE will look at consistency too in a c-store’s compliance and record-keeping.”
The two stressed that having your employee I-9s in order is key to complying with ICE. Everyone hired to work in a store must complete an I-9, including U.S. citizens, permanent residents and authorized aliens. I-9s can be completed on paper or through an electronic system. Wood pointed out that “employers can’t use I-9s to prescreen potential workers.” I-9s can only be filled out after a person has been hired.
Attendee questions related to whether a contractor needs an I-9 form (not needed for independent contractors) and if it’s okay to have the I-9 forms reside at a central location in the case of multiple stores (yes). Wood recommended that chains provide basic I-9 form training to those who do the hiring, such as onsite managers to avoid errors, such as asking for more documentation than necessary or prescreening.
“I think ICE will be focusing a lot on mom and pop restaurants and stores,” Wood said, adding that retailers should conduct their own I-9 audit to ensure compliance. “Historically, ICE has been able to bring more cases against mom and pop stores because they’re easier cases. … If [ICE is] looking to increase their cases by 400%, I think unfortunately places like convenience stores and restaurants may really be a target.”
NACS magazine will be offering additional coverage on how convenience stores can prepare for a potential immigration raid in an upcoming issue.