Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Immigration agents conducted pre-dawn interviews at 7-Eleven stores throughout the country Wednesday, arresting 21 people.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said agents raided nearly 100 stores to audit employment records and interview employees, The Washington Post reported.
"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 Homan, acting director of ICE.
The Staten Island Advance in New York reported agents raided three area stores. Employees at two of the stores said no arrests were made there.
"They were here for like 15 minutes or so, then they left when everything was good," one manager, whose name wasn't reported, said.
Nestor Yglesias, a spokesman for ICE, told the Sun-Sentinel in Florida that agents visited seven stores in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. The newspaper said the audits could result in criminal charges or fines for stores found to be hiring undocumented immigrants.
Agents visited 7-Eleven stories in Washington, D.C., and 17 states.
"Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet," Homan said. "ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration."
In 2013, ICE officials arrested nine 7-Eleven owners and managers for employing undocumented immigrants and paid them with Social Security numbers belonging to dead people or children. All but one pleaded guilty to fraud charges and were required to pay more than $2.6 million in back wages.