No RGV 7-Elevens targeted in immigration probe

No South Texas 7-Eleven convenience stores were targeted Wednesday morning during a nationwide probe by immigration agents to verify employees’ immigration status during what officials say was the largest operation against an employer during Donald Trump’s presidency.

“(Homeland Security Investigations special agents) didn’t do anything in Central and South Texas,” said Adelina Pruneda, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.

There are 14 7-Eleven stores in the Rio Grande Valley, according to the company’s website — seven each in both Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

About 100 7-Eleven stores in 17 states, including Texas, were targeted across the country. Agents served the store’s owners with notices of inspection, also known as I-9 audit notices, requiring them to produce work authorization documentation for their employees.

Twenty-one people suspected of being in the country illegally were arrested.

Derek Benner, a top ICE official, told the AP that Wednesday’s operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come for employers.”

Benner said “these large-scale compliance inspections” would not be limited to large companies like 7-Eleven or particular industries. “It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there,” he added.

Most of 7-Eleven’s U.S. stores are owned by franchises, many of which are run by immigrants.

“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet, said Thomas Homan, ICE’s deputy director, in a statement.

Wednesday’s probe stems from a 2013 investigation that resulted in charges against nine franchise owners and managers in New York and Virginia who were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million in back wages.

The Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Stores Inc. released a statement Wednesday saying that owners of its franchises are responsible for hiring their own employees and verifying their work eligibility.

It is illegal for employees to knowingly hire unauthorized workers living in the United States illegally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.