The tentacles of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are creeping further into daily American life, as shown by Wednesday’s dramatic raids across the country targeting 98 7-Eleven stores spurred in part by a series of 2013 raids that included stores on Long Island.
Of the total, 16 stores in New York City were roped into the effort, which is ICE’s largest attack on a single employer since Trump took office. For all this costly work funded by the American people, ICE only arrested 21 employees suspected of being in the U.S. undocumented.
As aggressive actions from the Trump administration escalate, undocumented immigrants are no longer the only target. Businesses of all kinds will now be in the crosshairs, as well. This will only further stir the climate of fear immigrants endure, while also infringing on all levels of the U.S. economy.
In a statement, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan claimed that businesses that hire undocumented workers “are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet.”
“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. 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,” Homan stated.
Despite the Trump administration’s rhetoric claiming they will only go after undocumented immigrants who commit crimes, the raids send a starkly different message: that anyone undocumented is at risk of deportation and having their lives destroyed.
“When we talk about targeting employers, that’s auditing employers to see if they followed those rules. It’s not necessary to show up with agents and interview people on site unannounced,” Angela Banks, an immigration expert and professor of law at Arizona State, told the Huffington Post.
In a statement, Newsday reported, 7-Eleven said that franchisees are “independent business owners” who are responsible for verifying employees’ ability to legally work in the United States.
The 2013 raids targeted franchise owners who used stolen Social Security numbers to employ undocumented workers. Then, the owners kept most of their paychecks for themselves, according to a report from National Public Radio.
It is not yet clear if wage theft was involved in the recent raids. But, it seems, ICE is certainly not acting in immigrants’ best interest, but is instead paving the way for more intense crackdowns on businesses, a senior ICE official told the Associated Press.
In actions that will only serve to drive undocumented immigrants even more underground, ICE has set a nefarious precedent: that they will send their agents into businesses, comb through their books, and in an Orwellian-like fashion, will round up anyone they suspect may be here undocumented.
“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, told the AP. “It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry — big, medium and small… It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”