U.S. immigration agents, known as ICE agents went at 6 a.m. to 98 franchises of 7-Eleven around the country and arrested 21 people who were allegedly without immigration authorization. A significant proportion of franchises of this and other well known brands are owned by people of Indian origin. Several of those detained were of Indian descent, according to Srujal Parikh, president of the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) for the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agents served notices of inspection, also known as I-9 audit notices, to 7-Eleven stores in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Washington, DC. Indian Americans own many of the franchises across the country. Approximately two-thirds of America’s convenience stores are owned by Indian Americans and other South Asians, according to data from the American Petroleum and Convenient Store Association. APCA declined to comment on the Jan. 10 raids.
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce,” ICE’s Acting Director Thomas D. Homan said in a statement. “ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable.”
Homan did not say why ICE went after the Irving, Texas-based convenience store chain, which has 60,000 franchises worldwide and is famous for its Slurpee drinks. ICE hit stores in 17 states and Washington, D.C., and gave managers and franchise owners three days to provide the agency with the immigration status of their workers.
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we are working hard to remove this magnet,” Homan said. “ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”
The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and South Asian Americans Leading Together, released a joint statement condemning the ICE raids, adding, “It’s clear from the numbers that any large scale immigration raids, detentions and deportations deeply impact the South Asian community in the U.S. With 450,000 undocumented Indians …”
The 17 states where the 7-Elevens that were raided, are located included California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington. According to ICE this was the largest such operation targeting a specific employer since President Trump took office, The Washington Post reported, adding that ICE agents went into the stores “to deliver audit notifications and conduct interviews.”
In its own statement, 7-Eleven said it was aware of the ICE raids and stressed that each franchise is run by “independent business owners” who are “solely responsible for their employees, including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.”
“7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws,” the statement read.