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US immigration raids 7-Eleven stores popular with foreign-descent employees

7-Eleven stores are a chain of convenience store franchises that are very popular with newly minted legal immigrants, a large number of whom are of South Asian descent, including Indian.

world Updated: Jan 11, 2018 19:15 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US immigration,US immigration raids,7-Eleven stores
Activists rally for the passage of a "clean" Dream Act, one without additional security or enforcement measures, outside the New York office of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), January 10, 2018 in New York City. (AFP)

Agents of a US agency that enforces immigration and customs rules raided a large number of 7-Eleven convenience stores around the country, and arrested 21 people who were found to be living in the country illegally.

The raids were conducted early Wednesday at 98 stores in Washington DC and 17 states, including New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Texas and California.

7-Eleven stores are a chain of ubiquitous convenience store franchises that are very popular with newly minted legal immigrants, a large number of whom are of South Asian descent, including Indian. But the agency, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, did not share information about the nationality — or country of origin — of those raided or held.

The individuals arrested face “removal from the country”.

Workplace immigration raids are nothing new. Under President George W Bush, agents would raid places that they suspected employed people illegally in the US. During President Barack Obama, agents would conduct inspections of papers employers have to fill up about their workers’ eligibility, called 1-9. The Wednesday raid was similar in nature.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to the US 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,” said Thomas D. Homan, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director.

“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”

These raids were a follow up of 2013 action, ICE said, during with nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers were arrested for allegedly conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal aliens employed at their stores. All but one, who remained a fugitive until his arrest in November 2017, pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million in restitution for back wages stolen from workers.

7-Eleven Inc, which is based in Texas, said in a statement it was aware of ICS actions but said “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”.

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 07:28 IST