UPDATE | Agents descend on 7-Eleven stores in 17 states


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seven immigration agents filed into a 7-Eleven store before dawn today, waited for people to go through the checkout line and told arriving customers and a driver delivering beer to wait outside. A federal inspection was underway, they said.

Within 20 minutes, they verified that the cashier had a valid green card and served notice on the owner to produce hiring records in three days that deal with employees' immigration status.

The well-rehearsed scene, executed with quiet efficiency in Los Angeles' Koreatown, played out at about 100 7-Eleven stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia, a rolling operation that officials called the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump's presidency.

The employment audits and interviews with store workers could lead to criminal charges or fines. 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.

A top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the audits were "the first of many" and "a harbinger of what's to come" for employers.

"This is what we're gearing up for this year and what you're going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters," said Derek Benner, acting head of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.

"It's not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry — big, medium and small," he said.

12:25 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. immigration agents descended on dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn today to open employment audits and interview workers in what officials described as the largest operation against an employer under Donald Trump's presidency.

Agents targeted about 100 stores nationwide, broadening an investigation that began with a 4-year-old case against a franchisee on New York's Long Island. The audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over the stores' hiring practices.

The action appears to open a new front in Trump's sharp expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests and plans to spend billions of dollars on a border wall with Mexico. Hardliners have been pressing for a tougher stance on employers.

Derek Benner, a top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told The Associated Press that today's operation was "the first of many" and "a harbinger of what's to come" for employers. He said there would be more employment audits and investigations, though there is no numerical goal.

"This is what we're gearing up for this year and what you're going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters. From there, we will look at whether these cases warrant an administrative posture or criminal investigation," said Benner, acting head of ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.

"It's not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small," he said. "It's going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there."

7-Eleven Stores Inc., based in Irving, Texas, with more than 8,600 stores in the U.S., didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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