Five 7-Eleven stores in LA area targeted by ICE agents

Cari Pak, Jan. 12, 2018, 2:37 p.m.

Immigration agents raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide on Wednesday including five in the Los Angeles area and handed out employment audit notices and conducted interviews to determine whether employees there are eligible to work in the United States. In all of Southern California, four audit notices were served to 7-Eleven stores in the city of Los Angeles and one in Culver City, said Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego.

ICE officials declined to provide locations of the stores they visited, but ICE agents were seen at one 7-Eleven store in Koreatown early Wednesday.

Overall, 98 stores in 17 states and Washington D.C. were targeted, including California, New York, Texas and Florida, according to a release from ICE. Twenty-one people suspected of being in the country illegally were arrested nationwide and given notices to appear in immigration court.

“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,” Thomas D. Homan, ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director, said in a written statement.

Homan argued that businesses that hire undocumented workers serve to attract illegal immigration into the country.

Wednesday’s nationwide operation stems from a 2013 ICE Homeland Security Investigations probe into a number of 7-Eleven franchises that resulted in the arrest of nine Long Island, New York franchise owners and managers for conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring undocumented workers. Nearly all pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million in restitution for back wages stolen from employees, according to ICE.

Silver Lake resident Sean Rinehart, 65, said he does not agree with some of the more “liberal” policies toward immigration in California, particularly when it comes to immigrants involved in criminal activity. But he felt that the owners of the Koreatown 7-Eleven seemed like an “honest” family.

“I’ve left my (credit) card in there, and they’ll go right after (me), or if the charge is incorrect they get right on it,” he said.

As for why immigration officials chose to target 7-Eleven stores, Rinehart said he feels immigration officials likely had a reason. However, he felt the operators of this particular location are “solid” and didn’t strike him as the type to break immigration laws.

“I’ve gotten to know them over the years … I come six or seven times a week and this is a good place to come because the law enforcement are here at night.”

Manjit Singh, who operates a 7-Eleven store along North Towne Avenue just north of the 10 Freeway in Pomona, had not heard of the immigration actions Wednesday but said they should not be a concern to him or other operators.

“You check documents before you hire anybody,” Singh said. “You follow the U.S., state and city laws and that’s it.”

He added that the corporation provides franchisees with the tools and systems necessary to meet all local. state and federal regulations and franchisees use those resources.

“If you are doing the right thing you don’t have to be afraid,” he said.

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