LOS ANGELES – The
Associated Press reports the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agents descended on dozens of 7-Eleven stores early Wednesday “to open
employment audits and interview workers in what officials described as the
largest operation against an employer under Donald Trump's presidency.”
The news source writes that ICE agents targeted about 100
U.S. stores, and the audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over the
stores' hiring practices.
“The action appears to open a new front in Trump's sharp
expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40% increase
in deportation arrests and plans to spend billions of dollars on a border wall
with Mexico,” the AP writes.
Derek Benner, a top official at U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press that Wednesday's operation was
"the first of many" and "a harbinger of what's to come" for
employers. "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. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an
administrative posture or criminal investigation," said Benner. "It's
not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big
medium and small," he said. "It's going to be inclusive of everything
that we see out there."
The news source continues that agents arrested 21 people
suspected of being in the U.S. illegally during Wednesday's raids, and that the
action “was aimed squarely at management.”
Brenner noted to the AP that ICE needs to make sure that
employers “are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they're
being compliant. …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."
The AP says that the 7-Eleven stores served on Wednesday
will be required to produce documents showing they required work authorization,
which Benner said will become more common. "Just as the IRS performs
audits of people all the time of their tax returns, the same purpose here is to
ensure a culture of compliance in this area," he said.