The great Trump crackdown on illegal immigration marched on this week, as Wednesday saw federal agents descend on a hundred 7-Eleven locations across the country to verify the immigration status of the stores’ employees.
The Associated Press has the details on the operation, which is an expansion of an investigation that began four years ago with nine 7-Eleven franchisees and managers in New York and Virginia charged with employing over a hundred illegals using more than 25 stolen identities:
The action appears to open a new front in Trump’s expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests.
Derek Benner, a top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said 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,” said Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.
In Los Angeles’ Koreatown, seven agents who arrived in unmarked cars closed a store for 20 minutes to explain the audit to the only employee there, a clerk with a valid green card. Agents told arriving customers that the store was closed briefly for a federal inspection. A driver delivering cases of beer was told to wait in the parking lot.
The manager was in Bangladesh and the owner, reached by phone, told the clerk to accept whatever documents were served. Agents said they would return Tuesday for employment records they requested.
After the inspections, officials planned to look at whether the cases warrant administrative action or criminal investigations, Benner said.
In a statement, 7-Eleven Stores Inc. essentially passed the buck for obeying immigration law on to individual franchises, saying it was ultimately their owners’ responsibility to ensure that the people they hired were legally authorized to work in the United States. The company added that it has taken away franchises from people who have been convicted of knowingly hiring illegals.
“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 explained about the latest push to target management.
Julie Myers Wood, former head of ICE during the Bush administration, said Wednesday’s action showed that immigration officials were focusing their enforcement efforts on a repeat violator.
Part of the problem, Wood said, is the lack of “a consistent signal” that the U.S. government will prosecute employers who hire immigrants without legal status. Changes in immigration programs between administrations, like the Obama-era program shielding young immigrants and other programs offering temporary protected status, add to the difficulty of keeping track of workers’ statuses, said Wood, who is now CEO of the consulting firm Guidepost Solutions.
This news is most welcome as a sign the Trump Administration is taking immigration enforcement more seriously than its predecessors, but it’s also a reminder of a hole in our immigration laws that must be addressed. Nationwide, mandatory E-Verify, the system that uses Social Security numbers to confirm whether a prospective worker is legally authorized to be in the United States, must be a non-negotiable point of any immigration legislation Congress takes up in the future — which means, contrary to his statements earlier this week, President Donald Trump would be insane to sign just “anything” Congress sends him.