RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Federal immigration agents conducted a surprise sweep of nearly 100 7-Eleven convenience stores across the nation Wednesday. They were trying to root out employers whose workers may be in this country illegally. As NPR's Richard Gonzales reports, the action is the largest such immigration enforcement operation conducted under the Trump administration.
RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: Agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted for inspections 7-Eleven stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-one people suspected of being and working in this country illegally were arrested. In a statement, the acting director of ICE, Thomas Homan, said the actions were intended to send a strong message to employers that if they hire an illegal workforce, his agency will hold them accountable. Supporters of that approach say it's about time.
PETER NUNEZ: People come here to find work. If they can't find work, they won't come.
GONZALES: Peter Nunez is a former U.S. attorney and board chair of the D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates immigration limits.
NUNEZ: And no one questions that the way to stop illegal immigration is to stop them from getting jobs.
GONZALES: Critics say workplace enforcement actions during the George W. Bush administration were not effective. Michael Kaufman is a senior attorney for the ACLU of Southern California.
MICHAEL KAUFMAN: There were a large number of workers who were arrested, but at the end of the day, it did not create a large deterrent, and it did nothing to solve the problem of the many undocumented workers that remain here contributing to our economy and supporting their families.
GONZALES: For its part, Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven said in an emailed statement that its franchisees are independent business owners and solely responsible for who they hire and verifying who is eligible to work.
Richard Gonzales, NPR News.
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