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Motel 6 Agrees to Pay $8.9 Million to Settle Claims It Helped ICE Arrest Guests

Motel 6 has agreed to pay up to $8.9 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that its employees provided the personal information of several Latino guests to federal immigration officials, leading to their detainment.

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Julia Jacobs
, New York Times

Motel 6 has agreed to pay up to $8.9 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that its employees provided the personal information of several Latino guests to federal immigration officials, leading to their detainment.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in January, encompasses the claims of eight hotel guests who said Motel 6 employees at two locations in Phoenix handed over private information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials without a warrant. The lawsuit asserted that the two motels invaded guests’ privacy and discriminated against them on the basis of their race and national origin.

In September 2017, Motel 6 acknowledged that employees at some of its locations in Arizona regularly handed over information that led to its guests’ being detained or deported. This practice was revealed in a report in The Phoenix New Times, prompting an array of calls to boycott Motel 6, which is owned by G6 Hospitality, a Texas-based company.

After the initial reports, a spokeswoman for G6 Hospitality — which is controlled by Blackstone, the private-equity firm — said the practice was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”

Motel 6 then introduced a policy prohibiting its locations from sharing information about its guests with law enforcement officials unless the hotels are compelled to.

Of the $8.9 million that Motel 6 agreed to pay, up to $7.6 million would go to plaintiffs across the country, said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the nonprofit that represents the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. The rest of the money, $1.3 million, would go to the plaintiffs’ legal fees and to pay for the administration of the settlement.

The proposed settlement, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, would offer monetary damages to guests across the country who come forward and show that their private information had been offered to the government beginning in February 2017. The agreement requires the approval of the District Court, which has yet to rule on it.

Former guests who were interrogated by immigration authorities as a result of having their information leaked would receive a class-wide total of $1 million, while those who were placed in immigration removal proceedings would receive a total of up to $5.6 million, according to court documents. Plaintiffs whose information was shared but who were not affected further would receive a total of up to $1 million.

The proposed settlement also calls for Motel 6 to put into effect a policy requiring employees to withhold guests’ information from immigration authorities in the event that they do not have a warrant or subpoena — unless there is reason to believe doing so is necessary to prevent a “significant crime,” according to court documents.

“The potential harms here are as significant as you can imagine,” Saenz said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re just pleased they have agreed to put in place procedures that would prevent them from sharing this information in the future.”

A joint statement from the plaintiffs’ lawyers and Motel 6 said a settlement would establish a mechanism for those affected by the improper sharing of private information to seek relief.

“Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation,” the statement said, “and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests.”

In a response to the lawsuit, Motel 6 denied wrongdoing and said its corporate policy against sharing this sort of information would be sufficient.

A spokeswoman for ICE referred questions to the hotel company because it had not been named in the lawsuit.

According to the suit, one of the plaintiffs, who is identified with a pseudonym, was held in detention for over a month after ICE officials arrested him in Phoenix outside the Motel 6 where he was staying. The lawsuit said a Motel 6 employee had photocopied his driver’s license from Mexico.

Early this year, a similar lawsuit was filed against Motel 6 by Washington state alleging that hotel employees in that state routinely gave immigration agents personal information about guests, including their names, birth dates and license plate numbers. That case is continuing, according to court records.

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