At least 21 people were arrested and ordered to appear in immigration court during a nationwide U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation that targeted 7-Eleven franchises Wednesday morning, which included locations in four Bay Area counties.
Today’s action follows up on a 2013 investigation in which nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers were arrested on suspicion of wire fraud, identity theft and harboring undocumented immigrants working for them, according to a statement from ICE.
ICE says their personnel served notices of inspection, otherwise known as I-9 audits, and interviewed employees and managers. These actions were widely described as “raids,” but ICE spokesman James Schwab says the agency does not use that term:
“The agents placed notifications at the locations, so basically they just walked in, interviewed or talked to the person and then left.”
“If the person was here unlawfully they would administratively arrest that person. … But this wasn’t like a SWAT operation.”
Bay Area locations inspected during the operation took place in the cities of Napa, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Petaluma, Suisun City and Santa Clara.
ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan, who recently told Fox News that officials in sanctuary city jurisdictions like San Francisco should face criminal charges for violating federal law, said in a statement that Wednesday’s action was intended to send a message to employers.
“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.”
Homan has stated that in response to the Sanctuary State law that went into effect Jan. 1, he plans to “significantly increase” the enforcement presence ICE has in California with more special agents and more deportations – a move he claims is privately supported by local police.
Today’s operation was conducted across 17 different states, and ICE did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding how many franchise locations were targeted in the Bay Area or how many local residents were arrested, if any.