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Former Head Of ICE Discusses Raids On 7-Eleven Stores


Here's one more way that President Trump is following through on his promise to go after people who are in the country illegally. This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted predawn raids at 7-Eleven stores across the U.S., around a hundred locations altogether. Twenty-one employees were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally. This is the biggest action like this against a single employer since President Trump took office. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says there will be more to come. Julie Myers Wood ran ICE from 2006 to 2008 under President George W. Bush, and she joins us now. Welcome.

JULIE MYERS WOOD: Thanks for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: These sorts of organized workplace raids took place when you ran ICE a decade ago. Explain the thinking behind them.

MYERS: Well, there's a lot of frustration in this country - and there has been for a long time - about workers who are unauthorized and trying to figure out how we can effectively attack the magnet of illegal employment. And when I was at ICE, one of the things that we did do was conduct large-scale enforcement actions that involved targeting employers but also involved administrative arrests of the employees. And what we're seeing now with the Trump administration is a return to that enhanced enforcement with a little bit of a twist.

SHAPIRO: What's the twist?

MYERS: Well, the twist is that the actions at 7-Eleven under the Trump administration involve service of a notice of intent to inspect in addition to administrative arrests of employees. And during the Bush administration, we were not serving as many administrative notice of inspections. In fact, we were just kind of ramping that program up. And when we did serve a notice of inspection, it was not accompanied by any administrative arrests.

SHAPIRO: I know that when you ran ICE, there were enforcement actions against factories that employed hundreds of workers. When you go after individual 7-Eleven stores, the company says these stores are independently operated by franchise owners. Does that make it harder to crack down on a company if there's no centralized management chain?

MYERS: Certainly the fact that they are franchises adds a level of complexity. What I would expect ICE to be doing is looking at, what sort of control does the company have over the franchisees? What did the franchisees agree to do? Are they using centralized payroll, or - and are there other ways that the franchisor is exercising control?

I would note that this is a really - appears to be a real continuation of a case against 7-Eleven back in 2013. And so the question to 7-Eleven at the corporate level is, are they doing enough? How can they ensure that their franchisees and their brand is one that stands for employing authorized workers?

SHAPIRO: If this is a message to business owners, what kinds of companies do you expect we could likely see to be targeted - factories, farms? What would you think would be likely?

MYERS: First and foremost, I think if you are a company that was subject to a notice of inspection or had problems in the past, either a notice of intent to fine, suspect documents, unauthorized alien letters, anything - if you've had a problem in the past, you better make sure that now you have a solid footing on immigration compliance.

I think the lesson from the activity at 7-Eleven is that companies that have had trouble before are going to be the - on the top of ICE's list for examining and reviewing again. And we've seen that over the past couple of months. I think you're going to see more and more of that. But I think we're also going to see traditional industries that have had a high percentage of unauthorized workers come to the front and be part of ICE's enforcement actions.

SHAPIRO: Such as farms, agriculture.

MYERS: Such as agriculture, farms, hospitality. One of the things that we saw in the Bush administration with the meat packing industry is they certainly were the subject of a number of enforcement actions. We saw a number of the meat packers and the industry association as a whole then come forward, think about compliance and really transform itself in terms of solid steps towards compliance. I think ICE wants to make kind of industrywide differences and enhancements kind of throughout the country.

SHAPIRO: Julie Myers Wood ran Immigration and Customs Enforcement from 2006 to 2008. Thank you very much.

MYERS: Thanks so much, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.