Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores in a coordinated nationwide sweep in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The raids were conducted so ICE could “open employment audits and interview workers,” according to the Associated Press, which, in a nice bit of collaboration, sent journalists along to witness the raids taking place. At least 21 people who were suspected of being in the country illegally were arrested.
The AP said that the raids were the largest single operation against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency.
“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,” Derek Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers, told the AP.
The 7-Eleven stores targeted on Wednesday will now have to produce documents that show they required workers to fill out work eligibility forms. Workplace raids and I-9 employment eligibility form audits first soared under the Barack Obama administration. Paperwork audits went from 503 in 2008 to more than 8,000 between 2009 and 2012, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
There is actually a heavy bit of irony in the ICE actions. One of the largest single-workplace immigration raids in U.S. history took place in 2008 at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Three-hundred-eighty-nine immigrants were arrested. Many were held in a cattle exhibit hall, as The Washington Post reported at the time.
Three weeks ago, on December 20 2017, the Trump commuted the prison sentence of Agriprocessors CEO Sholom Rubashkin, who was convicted in 2009 of money laundering and financial fraud and sentenced to 27 years in prison.