ICE says its targeting employers, but the employees are the ones suffering now.
ICE says it's targeting employers in these raids, but the employees are the ones who are being arrested right now. Tim Boyle / Staff

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 21 immigrants in a predawn raid of nearly 100 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country, according to the AP.

The agency, which has "already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests and plans to spend billions of dollars on a border wall with Mexico," was on a mission to "open employment audits" of the company. They're essentially charging into stores and ordering managers to turn over their I-9s or other employment eligibility documents. If they find any undocumented workers in the process, they arrest them.

The AP quotes ICE's Derek Brenner, who said this morning's operation was "'the first of many' and 'a harbinger of what’s to come' for employers." Then there's this chilling shit:

“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. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation,” said Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.

The Los Angelas Times notes that ICE is using a case from 2013 about employment issues at nine 7-Eleven franchises as a basis to expand the probe to the others:

In the 2013 investigations, managers used more than 25 stolen identities to employ at least 115 people in the country illegally, knowing they could pay below minimum wage, according to court documents.

In a statement, 7-Eleven, Inc. says they're aware of the actions and that franchise owners are on their own: "7-Eleven 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," the statement reads. "As part of the 7-Eleven franchise agreement, 7-Eleven requires all franchise business owners to comply with all federal, state and local employment laws...7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws."

The Seattle Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs says, to their knowledge, ICE didn't raid any 7-Eleven locations in Seattle.

In general, this new approach from ICE appears to combine the George W. Bush-era shock-and-awe raids with the Obama-era commitment to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers.

"This whole week has put an emphasis on how the Trump administration wants to continue exercising their xenophobic views," says Maru Mora Villalpando, an organizer with Northwest Detention Center Resistance. "We started this week with the announcement ending Temporary Protected Status for over 200,000 Salvadorians. Then we have yesterday's announcement of Operation Janus, the DOJ's plan to review the applications of naturalized citizens and to deport those who didn't follow the procedure properly according to them. And now today we have the announcement of this massive operation against these low-income people of color who work at 7-Eleven. This shows we're not heading into a fascist state, we're already living in a fascist state."