7-Eleven raids show­case new im­mi­gra­tion strat­egy

The Signal - - BUSINESS - Alan Gomez

When fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion agents raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores across the na­tion this week, it was the first high-pro­file ex­am­ple of how the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is chang­ing work site en­force­ment.

Pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions fo­cused ei­ther on em­ploy­ers or work­ers, but Pres­i­dent Trump tar­gets both groups with an all-of-the above ap­proach.

The raids on 98 con­ve­nience stores in 17 states be­fore dawn Wed­nes­day kick­started au­dits of the own­ers about their

“This shows that there are no longer any pri­or­i­ties. Ev­ery­one is a pri­or­ity.”

Muzaf­far Chishti of the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute, an im­mi­gra­tion re­search group

hir­ing prac­tices and whether man­agers know­ingly em­ployed un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants. Agents ar­rested 21 un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants work­ing at the stores and im­me­di­ately started de­por­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings.

“This shows that there are no longer any pri­or­i­ties. Ev­ery­one is a pri­or­ity,” said Muzaf­far Chishti of the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute, a non-par­ti­san group that re­searches im­mi­gra­tion is­sues.

Thomas Ho­man, act­ing di­rec­tor of Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE), has said he will “sig­nif­i­cantly” in­crease work site raids be­cause im­mi­grants will be more hes­i­tant to il­le­gally en­ter the USA if there are no jobs for them. He told the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion in Oc­to­ber that he or­dered ICE agents to ramp up their work site in­ves­ti­ga­tions by “four to five times.”

He said agents will not tar­get one side of the em­ploy­ment equa­tion, as past ad­min­is­tra­tions did.

“We’re go­ing to do it a lit­tle dif­fer­ent,” he said. “We’re go­ing to pros­e­cute em­ploy­ers that know­ingly hire il­le­gal aliens, (and) we’re go­ing to de­tain and re­move the il­le­gal alien work­ers.”

Un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, large-scale raids of com­pa­nies be­came the norm, as fed­eral agents swooped into meat­pack­ing plants, poul­try pro­ces­sors, fruit sup­pli­ers and other im­mi­grant-heavy busi­nesses.

Em­ploy­ers were largely spared, and fines plum­meted dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Con­gres­sional Re­search Ser­vice re­port.

The gov­ern­ment is­sued 312 fines to­tal­ing more than $3.3 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2000, the re­port said. By fis­cal year 2002 — the first full year un­der Bush — the gov­ern­ment is­sued 91 fines for $485,000. The gov­ern­ment recorded zero fines in all of 2006.

Once Pres­i­dent Obama moved into the White House, ICE was told to change course and fo­cus pri­mar­ily on em­ploy­ers. The agency started more re­views of forms that all em­ploy­ees must sign to ver­ify their iden­tity and im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus.

In 2008, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s last year, ICE con­ducted 503 such au­dits of em­ploy­ers and barred one from win­ning fed­eral con­tracts, ac­cord­ing to the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute. Dur­ing the next four years un­der Obama, the agency av­er­aged more than 2,000 au­dits a year and barred 726 busi­nesses from get­ting fed­eral con­tracts.

That led to more fines, ar­rests, con­vic­tions and jail terms for em­ploy­ers.

Both ap­proaches have short­com­ings, said Jes­sica Vaughan, di­rec­tor of pol­icy stud­ies at the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies, which ad­vo­cates for lower lev­els of le­gal and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

Vaughan said the worker roundups un­der Bush largely ig­nored the em­ploy­ers’ role in help­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants get jobs. Each raid cre­ated a “pub­lic re­la­tions headache,” fol­lowed by heart­break­ing stories about the fam­i­lies af­fected.

“You’ve got peo­ple climb­ing out of win­dows, run­ning down the street,” Vaughan said. “It be­comes fod­der for stories of overzeal­ous en­force­ment. It leads to out­rage, fear and crit­i­cism that man­i­fests it­self in con­gres­sional hear­ings and news­pa­per stories.”

She said the Obama ap­proach had prob­lems by fo­cus­ing on em­ploy­ers and shut­ting down busi­nesses, which meant work­ers could avoid pun­ish­ment and just find another job.

“Au­dits are good be­cause they’re cost-ef­fec­tive,” she said. “But un­der that ap­proach, (em­ploy­ers) may fire their worker, but they end up go­ing to another em­ployer down the street. It doesn’t hold the work­ers ac­count­able.”

Vaughan said the com­bined ap­proach used by Trump is the best way to hit both sides equally. She said talk­ing about build­ing a wall along the south­ern bor­der and hir­ing more Bor­der Pa­trol agents misses the most im­por­tant point: Un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants will risk any­thing to get into the USA if they can find a job.

“As long as peo­ple think they can get here and get a job, they’re go­ing to keep com­ing,” she said.

Chishti of the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute noted another ben­e­fit to the 7-Eleven raids and the oth­ers sure to fol­low.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion thrives on pub­lic re­la­tions,” he said. “This cre­ates a huge stir, and peo­ple around the coun­try are say­ing, ‘Oh, my God.’ It makes im­mi­grants feel un­com­fort­able in their own skin. And it cre­ates a pub­lic per­cep­tion for the base that a new day in im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment has re­ally dawned.”

CHRIS CARL­SON/AP

U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents serve an em­ploy­ment au­dit no­tice at a 7-Eleven store Wed­nes­day in Los An­ge­les.

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