U.S. Immigration agents executed surprise pre-dawn raids on around 100 7-eleven stores across the country Wednesday, administratively arresting 21 people on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally in a national effort to ensure businesses are hiring employees who are legally allowed to work in the country.
"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 ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan, adding "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"
The arrests stem from a 4-year-old case against Long Island and Virginia 7-11 franchises, and may lead to fines or criminal charges over hiring practices.
Farrukh Baig, 57, and Bushra Baig, 49, a married couple who owned, co-owned or controlled 12 of the 7-11 franchise stores located on Long Island and in Virginia; Zahid Baig, 52, and Shannawaz Baig, 62, Farrukh Baig’s brothers who helped to manage and control the stores; and Malik Yousaf, 51, Tariq Rana, 34, and Ramon Nanas, 49. Brothers Ahzar Zia, 49, and Ummar Uppal, 48, indicted separately, owned and controlled two other Suffolk County 7-11 franchise stores.
Through this scheme, the defendants allegedly hired dozens of illegal aliens, equipped them with more than 20 identities stolen from U.S. citizens, housed them at residences owned by the defendants and stole substantial portions of their wages. If convicted, the defendants face 20 years in prison on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges, as well as multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory, consecutive two-year term of incarceration. -ICE.gov
Wednesday's raids took place in California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington state, and Washington, D.C.
The HSI investigation and service of notices of inspection was meant as a follow-up to a company-wide problem that was discovered in 2013.
Five years ago, the agency arrested nine franchise owners and managers for conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities, and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants employed at 7-Eleven stores.
"Today’s service of NOIs throughout the United States serves as a follow-up to ensure the company has taken the proper steps towards more responsible hiring and employment practices," the agency added.
The 7-11 raids were conducted a little over a week after Washington State filed suit against Motel 6 for training its employees to regularly hand over information on thousands of guests to immigration officials looking for people with "Latino-sounding names," most of which was done without a warrant.
It was not isolated to two motels in Phoenix, not by a long shot. The company’s actions were methodical. They trained their new employees on how to do this,” Ferguson said. “We’re going to find out who at Motel 6 knew what, and when they knew it.”
He said the names of “many thousands” of Washington residents and visitors staying at Motel 6 had been turned over to the federal government “without their knowledge, without their consent.”
Ferguson said Motel 6 staffers told investigators that “the ICE agents circled any Latino or Latina-sounding names on the guest registry, and returned to their vehicles” to run background checks. -LA Times
Motel 6 - with over 1,400 locations in North America, disavowed the practice, saying that the information was handed over at "the local level without the knowledge of senior management."
Ferguson's lawsuit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, accuses Motel 6 of racial discrimination, unfair and deceptive business practices, and violations of Washington state privacy laws.