Federal immigration agents targeted 7-Eleven franchises in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol Wednesday as part of a national series of enforcement actions at the convenience store chain that authorities said was aimed at validating the immigration status of its employees and managers.
Video from 7-Eleven in Santa Rosa (Courtesy KPIX 5):
No arrests were made in Sonoma County and other Northern California locations, but 21 people were arrested during U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement visits to 98 7-Elevens in 17 states, according to an ICE spokesman. It was the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump’s year-old presidency.
At least one 7-Eleven in Napa was also targeted by federal immigration agents, said James Schwab, a spokesman for ICE’s San Francisco office. Other Bay Area locations for the operations included Santa Clara and Suisun City, he said.
The main purpose of the sweeps was to notify franchises that ICE would be auditing the immigration status of their employees and managers, Schwab said. Arrests were made in cases where it was clear that employees lacked legal status to work.
Officials with the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol police departments said they were not notified by ICE that operations were planned in their jurisdictions.
“They can operate anywhere and they don’t need to tell us,” said Santa Rosa Police Capt. Rainer Navarro. “But we wouldn’t have participated in this.”
Employees at 7-Elevens on Guerneville Road in Santa Rosa and on Pleasant Hill Avenue North in Sebastopol said they were visited by ICE agents around 5 a.m. The employees declined to be interviewed Wednesday evening.
Agents also showed up at the stores on Old Redwood Highway and Lakeville Highway in Petaluma. The Old Redwood Highway store manager, Baljit Singh, said agents arrived about 6 a.m. He declined to offer additional comment.
Agents appeared at the Lakeville Highway location about 10 hours later, around 4:30 p.m., according to employee Navneet Sangar.
“I feel bad. It’s scary,” said Sangar, who has worked at the store for about two years and started his shift 30 minutes after agents left. “I have paperwork, but I’m also scared. (People) say ‘Why do you come here? Why don’t you go back to your country?’ I’m working. I pay tax and everything.”
The enforcement sweeps in Sonoma County come after Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan publicly criticized the Sheriff’s Office twice in the past 3 months over its policy that limits jail officials’ cooperation with federal immigration agents.
Sheriff Rob Giordano and the Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Sgt. Spencer Crum, responded in the two cases with strongly worded statements that defended the jail policy on ICE detainer requests and assailed Homan’s allegations that the department was putting the public at risk.
Crum declined to speculate Wednesday on why Sonoma County — which accounted for half of the reported Bay Area locations involved in the operation— was targeted.
The last known ICE operation in the North Bay region took place in May when agents visited a farmworker camp in Lake County and arrested three people while looking for a man with a criminal record who did not live at the site.
Omar Medina, a local immigrant rights advocate and volunteer for the North Bay Rapid Response Network of Sonoma and Napa counties, manned a 24-hour emergency hotline Wednesday morning.