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In a raid on 7-Eleven stores on Monday, federal agents busted more than a dozen franchise locations for allegedly hiring victimized illegal immigrants and providing them with stolen IDs.
In raids stretching from New York to Virginia, authorities seized 14 convenience stores and five homes which were allegedly used by the owners to house their underpaid and undocumented workers, reports Reuters.
Aside from the moral issues involved in exploiting immigrant workers with marginal pay and plantation-style housing, these 7-Eleven owners are facing serious criminal charges.
Integral to this alleged scheme to employ undocumented workers was a system of identity theft which provided stolen identities to the workers in order to avoid government scrutiny.
The 7-Eleven franchisees gave their employees Social Security and other personal identifying information stolen from U.S. citizens, including children and the deceased, reports The New York Times.
Under federal identity theft law, even transferring or forging one document that is issued by the U.S. government may land any of the fraudulent franchisees in prison for up to 15 years.
In many of these cases, the 7-Eleven workers might earn only $300 for 100 hours of work per week, or only about $3 an hour, reports The New York Times.
Not only have the 7-Eleven raids exposed countless cases of wage theft within the convenience store chain, but the owners' actions are likely to be considered human trafficking.
Human trafficking is not limited to exploiting underage persons for sex; it can also be charged in any case where fraud or coercion is used to harbor persons against their will so that a trafficker can use them for labor or services.
The superintendent of the New York State Police said that by forcing 7-Eleven employees to live in homes provided by their employers, those illegal immigrants were "completely beholden" to their bosses, reports Reuters.
As the pressure mounts on the Obama administration to crack down on immigration enforcement, more raids to expose immigrant abuse and identity theft may become commonplace.
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