In the early hours of Wednesday, ICE officers targeted 7-Elevens across the country to purportedly root out unauthorized workers. Nearly 100 stores were targeted before dawn while 21 undocumented people were reportedly arrested.
In a statement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Tom Homan said:
Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ... 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.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Derek Benner, acting leader of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations division, warned that the Wednesday crackdown was "a harbinger of what's to come."
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.
Benner also stated that 7-Elevens were not the only target — "It's not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small."
In one example according to The Associated Press, a group of ICE officials reportedly targeted a 7-Eleven in Koreatown, Los Angeles. The agents reportedly told the owner, a Bangladeshi manager who possessed a legal green card, that they would conduct an audit to vet employees and managers at the store. The agents reportedly shut down the store and carried out an investigation for 20 minutes.
Although dubbed as "terrorizing" by observers, ICE's Wednesday targeting comes as no surprise. Homan, the agency's acting director, had already voiced his intention to intensify the agency's investigation against undocumented people in the country. In October 2017, Homan vowed to lead a nationwide probe into businesses that might or might not have employed unauthorized workers.
During that month, Homan said that he would up the intensity of the crackdown "by four to five times." He made this vow while speaking at an event held by the right-wing public policy think tank, Heritage Foundation.
"We've already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year," he said. "Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we're going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers."
ICE agents said that their nationwide crackdown ranged from California, Oregon, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania to North Carolina, Colorado, and Texas.
Some observers criticized the move on social media. Jamil Smith, opinion writer for the Los Angeles Times, tweeted:
If this kind of police-state rubbish is indeed a "harbinger of what's to come," I look forward to @ICEgov applying this standard fairly and raiding @realDonaldTrump's businesses. Otherwise, this is just the government using its powers to intimidate.
There were also those who praised the crackdown.
In response to the ICE raids, 7-Eleven issued a statement:
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 that the action of hiring an undocumented individual in a franchise store was on the franchisee, not the company itself. The statement went on to say that the company "takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws."
For now, the ICE operation is focused on targeting management and vetting its employment ethics.