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Four 7-Eleven stores in Metro Detroit were targeted Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as part of a nationwide sweep. 

One man was arrested for immigration violations, according to ICE officials. The stores were among 98 nationwide targeted by ICE on Wednesday.

Nationally, 21 people in 17 states were arrested and given notices to appear in immigration court, ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls said. 

“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” said Thomas D. Homan, ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director. 

States where other investigations were conducted were California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

In 2013, Homeland Security conducted an investigation into various 7-Eleven franchises and arrested nine franchise owners and managers for conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities, and concealing and harboring undocumented workers  at their stores.

All but one, who remained a fugitive until his arrest in November 2017, pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million in restitution for back wages stolen from workers, according to the report. 

Officials at 7-Eleven Inc. said they are aware of ICE's actions at certain franchise locations and that the franchisee did the hiring the individuals, not 7-Eleven Inc. They say they are taking the raids seriously and have terminated franchise agreements at the where the individuals were arrested. 

"7-Eleven franchisees are independent business owners and are solely responsible for their employees ... As part of the 7-Eleven franchise agreement, 7-Eleven requires all franchise business owners to comply with all federal, state and local employment laws. This obligation requires 7-Eleven franchisees to verify work eligibility in the U.S. for all of their prospective employees prior to hiring," said 7-Eleven Inc.    

According to ICE, the investigation remains ongoing and any potential criminal charges or other penalties will be coordinated with the U.S. Department of Justice.

srahal@detroitnews.com

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