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AP NewsBreak: AP scoops everyone on ICE’s 7-Eleven hiring sweep, biggest raid under Trump

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven convenience store Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. Agents said they targeted about 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide Wednesday to open employment audits and interview workers. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat has spent years covering the U.S.-Mexico border, building sources within the federal agencies that enforce the nation’s immigration laws and earning the respect of senior officials.

That source work paid off when Spagat scored an exclusive ride-along as federal agents executed what officials called the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency: An early-morning sweep of nearly 100 7-Eleven stories that targeted the stores’ owners, rather than the workers.

Working under a noon Eastern embargo, Spagat, along with Rockies news editor Joe Danborn, made contingency plans for the news leaking out as agents began the operation on the East Coast. But the embargo held, and the APNewsBreak caught the competition cold.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents serve an employment audit notice at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Los Angeles, Jan. 10, 2018. – AP Photo / Chris Carlson

One U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said the operation was “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers.

For his efforts to put AP ahead of the competition (some news organizations cited AP while their own reporters rushed to confirm the story),Spagat wins this week’s Beat of the Week prize.

Spagat,based in San Diego,has pressed ICE officials for months about their plans to target employers. The Trump administration,which has come under fire for deporting immigrants but not going after employers,has been saying that a crackdown on businesses was coming.

Working under a noon Eastern embargo,Spagat,along with Rockies news editor Joe Danborn,made contingency plans for the news leaking out as agents began the operation on the East Coast. But the embargo held, and the APNewsBreak caught the competition cold.

The Washington Post moved an alert more than 30 minutes later,based on an ICE news release. The Los Angeles Times emailed an alert to readers based on the AP break and,along with CNN,The New York Times and others,posted the AP’s story before cobbling together versions that still leaned heavily on Spagat’s story, including his exclusive interview with a top ICE official.

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Reuters’ initial take credited the AP; Bloomberg simply left the AP’s story up. The Miami Herald and other major outlets tweeted AP’s story; MSNBC tweeted virtually the entire APNewsNow in a thread with AP credit.

Spagat’s immigration team colleague Nomaan Merchant in Houston secured crucial context from ICE officials who worked under the Obama administration. Chris Carlson’s exclusive photos of agents hitting a Los Angeles store ran everywhere,including on the front pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

“7-Eleven” quickly became a dominant trend as the story shot to the top of all of AP’s text and mobile metrics,still leading engagement and readership nearly 24 hours later,topping Chartbeat by a factor of 10,and racking up some 144,000 Facebook engagements.

Spagat also got around ICE’s strict no on video by returning to the scene to record a first-person report on camera. The West Desk’s Chris Havlik gathered the elements,and it was turned into edits for broadcast clients.

For scoring an exclusive through dogged source work, Spagat win’s this week’s $500 Beat of the Week prize.

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