Implications of the Nationwide 7-Eleven Immigration Sweep
During the early hours of January 10, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided 98 7-Eleven convenience stores. In the sweep that stretched across 17 states, ICE agents arrested 21 workers, and delivered dozens of audit notifications in a very public effort to crack down on illegal immigration.
ICE’s top official, Tom Homan, stated that the raid sent a “strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce” and affirmed ICE’s commitment to “eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
Since President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, ICE agents have increased their arrest rate by 40 percent. And last year, ICE ordered businesses to pay nearly $100 million in judicial forfeiture, fines and employee restitution.
7-Eleven’s corporate offices quickly discounted responsibility for the hiring decisions of its more than 60,000 franchise owners. In a prepared statement, the company said it had already terminated the franchise agreements of store owners who were convicted of (or pled guilty to) violating federal immigration laws.
While software like E-Verify can confirm whether an individual may legally work in the U.S., it’s not always foolproof. The prospect of fines or arrest for an employer who has violated immigration laws (along with the threat of having a franchise license stripped) could discourage employers from hiring immigrants—even those with proper documentation.
At least one state is fighting against ICE with its own immigration laws. California now prohibits its state employers in from providing ICE agents with information about employees’ immigration status. The state’s Attorney General announced plans to prosecute employers who violate this law, with potential fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
As uncertainty continues to swirl, tension between state and federal immigration enforcement and business owners is likely to intensify in the coming months.