As Southern California residents know, immigrants are at great risk for being exploited by unscrupulous employers. Although this is a deplorably common practice in California’s agricultural industry, for example, we certainly are not the only state where undocumented workers are being abused.
On Monday, federal authorities in New York announced that they had seized 14 7-Eleven convenience stores that had built a $180-million-in-revenue empire with a “modern-day plantation system” that exploited undocumented immigrants.
An estimated 50 undocumented workers were given fake identities using the Social Security numbers of deceased people and children. It is believed that they worked around 100 hours a week but received only a pittance in wages. They were also required to live in “substandard housing” provided by the owners of the stores involved, presumably to ensure that they were not able to describe their situation to anyone.
Nine people were arrested in the raid, five homes were seized and 40 other 7-Eleven locations are said to be under investigation because they might also have been involved with the scheme.
Authorities said this is the largest criminal immigration employment investigation ever carried out by the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. It took investigators about two years to finally move in on the owners of the franchises.
Although the locations involved were franchises, 7-Eleven as a corporation is facing some criticism over this incident. It has been pointed out that if the company had had greater oversight of its payroll, it might have been able to identify the fraud more quickly.
Source: The New York Times, “U.S. Seizes 14 7-Eleven Stores in Immigration Raids,” Mosi Secret and William K. Rashbaum, June 17, 2013