"Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration, and we are working hard to remove this magnet", Homan said.
Inspection notices were served at 7-Eleven franchises in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Washington, D.C. Sixteen of the franchises were in the New York City area.
"Today's actions send a strong message to US businesses that hire and employ an illegal work force: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable", Thomas D. Homan, the acting director of the agency, said in a statement. "7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws".
The raids on Wednesday grew out of a 2013 ICE investigation that resulted in charges against nine 7-Eleven franchisees and managers in NY and Virginia who allegedly used more than 25 stolen identities to employ over 100 people who were in the country illegally.
In a statement, 7-Eleven Inc said its stores operate independently on a franchisee basis but they are required to adhere to all federal and local laws.
And they appeared to open a new front in Trump's expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests and pledges to spend billions of dollars on a border wall with Mexico. Administrative fines are discounted by some as a business cost. In 2008, agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained almost 400 workers.
In 2008, the Bush administration's a year ago, ICE conducted 503 such audits of employers and barred one from winning federal contracts, the Migration Policy Institute.
In Miami Beach, an employee at one 7-Eleven said that while no agents showed up at her store, her boss asked workers to make sure their employment records were up to date, in case ICE continued its visits. John Sandweg, an acting ICE director under Obama, said significant fines instilled fear in employers and draining resources from other enforcement priorities.
Previous administrations focused either on employers or workers, but President Trump is targeting both groups with an all-of-the above approach. "We have seen this administration target immigrants with status and without".
George W. Bush's administration aggressively pursued criminal investigations against employers in its final years with dramatic pre-dawn shows of force and large numbers of worker arrests. But, he said, the administration would need to go beyond audits.