The 7-11 Compliance Conondrum

Immigration and citizenship employee compliance requirements are fairly straightforward, although awkward. You can’t usually ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. But you do need to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees, by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form, and reviewing documents showing the employee’s identity and employment authorization. Then you need to hold onto the I-9 while the person is employed.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents targeted nearly 100 of 7-Eleven stores in 17 states before dawn Wednesday to deliver audit notifications of their I-9 paperwork. In the process, it made 21 arrests of employees on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally.

But why 7-11?

A press release from 7-11 HQ pointed out:

“7-Eleven Franchisees are independent business owners and are solely responsible for their employees including deciding who to hire and verifying their eligibility to work in the United States.”

So effectively, ICE deployed hundreds of agents at almost 100 locations at what are essentially each a separate business. I would guess that each location employs a few dozen employees at the most. That seems like a huge deployment of resources for a small amount of potential targets.

I suppose this does send a message to franchisees and franchisors of all industries to make sure they follow the I-9 requirements because ICE is willing to dedicate a ludicrous amount of resources to make a statement.

ICE indicated that this sweep was a “follow-up” of a 2013 ICE action that resulted in the arrests of nine 7-Eleven franchise owners and managers in New York and Virginia on charges of employing undocumented workers. That was one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted.

Meanwhile the Office Inspector General released a report the raised concerns about ICE detainee treatment and care at detention facilities and ICE’s Screening Protocol of Aliens Who May Be Known or Suspected Terrorists is Limited and Risks National Security.

It still looks a huge of amount of resources deployed against the 7-11 franchises. In contrast, ICE raided an Iowa meatpacking plant in 2008 and detained nearly 400 undocumented workers. That plant owner, Sholom Rubashkin, recently had his prison sentence commuted by President Trump.

You can look at the 7-11 raid as a follow-up to a prior action.

“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,” said Thomas D. Homan, ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director. “Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration.” –  ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan

So according to ICE statement, 7-11 draws illegal immigrants into the US and those illegal workers are taking away jobs from Americans who want to work at 7-11.

For those in compliance like me, our job is not to question the wisdom of the rule, but make sure our companies are following the rule. That means running the I-9 process and keeping the paperwork to avoid an ICE raid.

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