As part of a nationwide investigation into the employment legality of workers, the Trump administration this week instigated a concentrated effort targeting 7-Eleven convenience stores. Five locations in South Florida have been visited, as well as two others in the Vero Beach area, part of a larger nationwide effort.

The Dade stores were located in Homestead and Miami Beach, and two more in Broward County, at Davie and Fort Lauderdale; one additional store was visited in West Palm Beach. These Florida searches did not lead to arrests, but the message of one company becoming targeted with searches by immigration officials is being delivered.

While not raids specifically, agents arrived to conduct “compliance inspections.” This would involve interviewing on-site workers and investigating employment records to verify the status of the staffs. The Florida locations were just some of the nearly 100 7-Eleven locations that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were looking into. This makes for the largest such investigation of an employer by the Trump administration.

So far. 

In a message meant for businesses the inspections have been described as “a harbinger of what’s to come” by one administration official, Derek Benner. The acting head of ICE division of Homeland Security Investigations stated, “This is what we’re gearing up for this year, and what you’re going to see more and more of — these large-scale compliance inspections.”

The acting director of ICE had even more stern language to deliver. “(These) 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,” said the agency’s top official. “ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.”

While no arrests were conducted this week, Florida has seen a sharp rise in illegal immigrants incarcerated this year after four consecutive years of those numbers dropping. 2016 saw less than 5,000 such arrests, but last year that total nearly doubled as the Trump administration has been enforcing the law more stridently. 

In response the parent company, which operates or licenses more than 56,000 stores globally, issued a release that supported the immigration laws. “7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously,” said the statement, insisting the company “has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws.”

“We will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation,” said Benner, indicating how the Trump administration will continue to increase the pressure on corporations to become compliant with immigration law.

Brad Slager is a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer who wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the entertainment industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.

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