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Four stores in Portland were visited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers on Jan. 10.

FILE PHOTO: ZANE SPARLING - A 7-Eleven conveniance store in the Rockwood neighborhood of Gresham.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers made no arrests in Oregon during their early-morning sweep of 7-Eleven convenience stores across the nation on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

But ICE officers served audit notices at four stores in the Portland metro area, the agency reports.

"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," the agency's acting deputy director, Thomas D. Homan, said in a message to reporters.

"ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration," he continued.

The inspection notice, technically known as an I-9 audit, allows ICE agents to inspect government forms that verify employees' identity and their authorization to work within the United States.

Overall, ICE says 21 unauthorized immigrants were arrested during the sweep of 98 stores in 17 states.

Representatives for 7-Eleven say they take immigration laws "seriously" and terminate the franchise rights of independent owners who hire undocumented immigrants.

"This obligation requires 7-Eleven franchisees to verify work eligibility in the US for all of their prospective employees prior to hiring," the company noted in a statement to the press. "7-Eleven takes compliance with immigration laws seriously and has terminated the franchise agreements of franchisees convicted of violating these laws."

ICE also conducted a similar targeted enforcement of 7-Eleven stores in 2013, which resulted in the arrest of nine managers accused of hiring workers who were living or working in the country illegally.

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