Federal agents visited several 7-Eleven stores around the Baltimore area today as part of a national sweep targeting undocumented workers and their employers.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement spokesman Matthew Rourke told Baltimore Fishbowl agents visited locations in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Pasadena and Severna Park, as well as Frederick, Upper Marlboro and Landover, to open employment audits and interview workers and managers to ensure employees are authorized to work there.
Rourke declined to say which location in Baltimore was targeted, or whether anyone was detained.
ICE visited 98 locations in all around the country in what the AP has described as “the largest operation against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency.” Twenty-one people in all were detained on suspicion of being in the country without authorization.
The sweep was a continuation of a 2013 probe of 7-Eleven franchises that resulted in nine franchise owners’ and managers’ arrests. They were charged with and ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal aliens.
ICE visited Baltimore multiple times last year. In September, agents arrested 28 Baltimore residents during “Operation Safe City,” a four-day crackdown targeting jurisdictions that do not honor ICE detainers or allow deportation officers into jails and prisons to take away immigrants. Seven months earlier, protests broke out in Highlandtown after agents arrested a neighborhood resident, with some claiming the agents impersonated police officers. (The agency denied those claims.)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ department has pressured Baltimore police to allow federal agents into the city’s jail to detain undocumented inmates, despite the fact that the facility has been state-managed since 1991. The Justice Department has withheld crime-fighting funding from the city as a result of its refusal to cooperate or lift sanctuary-like protections. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis pointed out during the summer that the state would get to make that decision about working with ICE, but argued that doing so would hurt police-community relations anyway.
Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen visited Baltimore in December to talk about immigration policy and MS-13, a gang known more for operating in the D.C. suburbs than around Baltimore.
On the topic of “sanctuary status,” Sessions opined, “I see no justification whatsoever for any city, any jurisdiction, any state to take the view that someone who enters the country illegally and then commits some other crime should be protected from the federal law to be deported.”