Motel 6 sued for turning guest information over to ICE agents

Saturday, 06 Jan, 2018

Washington's attorney general sued Motel 6 on Wednesday, alleging the national budget chain disclosed the private information of thousands of its guests to US immigration authorities in violation of the state consumer-protection law. During the Attorney General's investigation, Motel 6 admitted that at least six Washington Motel 6 locations provided guest registry information to ICE agents since at least 2015: Bellingham, North Everett, South Everett, South Seattle, SeaTac and South Tacoma.

However, Motel 6 claims that in September, it told all of its locations that "they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to (ICE)".

Motel 6 trained employees to give guest registries to ICE upon request and did not require a warrant, Ferguson's office alleged.

Ferguson's office is aware of six locations in Washington that have been cooperating with ICE for the past two years. But the Washington State DA's investigation into the matter shows that six corporate-owned Motel 6 locations in the state carried out the same practice. "As a Welcoming City, we are outraged by the blatantly discriminatory act of trolling guest information for Spanish surnames and for the disregard of the privacy of thousands of Motel 6 guests who did not consent to sharing their information with a third party". After the story made national news, Motel 6 released a short statement that the practice of providing guest information to ICE was "implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management". The actions of Motel 6 were not only disturbing and repugnant - they were also unlawful.

These allegations come some four months after it was revealed Motel 6 employees in Arizona had been providing ICE agents with guest information, leading to at least 20 arrests at two Phoenix Motel 6 properties.

Last year, a reporter uncovered the fact that Motel 6 was sharing guest lists with ICE in Arizona last year.

The Washington lawsuit is seeking to enjoin Motel 6 from providing guest data to ICE going forward and seeking damages for the thousands of Washingtonians allegedly effected, up to $2,000 per violation. The information given to immigration authorities included guests' names, dates of birth, driver's license numbers and license plate numbers. It is not clear whether any of the locations have given out information since September, when Motel 6 says it banned the practice. He said officers appeared to be using "Latino-sounding names" to figure out who they were targeting.

"Motel 6 staff observed ICE identify guests of interest to ICE, including by circling guests with Latino-sounding names", the lawsuit said. But Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe, a spokeswoman, said in an email that, in general, "immigration enforcement actions are targeted and lead-driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities".