Motel 6 Gave Guest Lists to Immigration Agents in Washington State, Lawsuit Says
Posted January 3, 2018 9:36 p.m. EST
When the hotel chain Motel 6 acknowledged in September that two of its Arizona motels had helped the government detain and deport some guests, the company said that the practice had been “implemented at the local level.”
But a lawsuit filed on Wednesday by Washington state suggests that it may have been more widespread.
The suit, filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, alleges that hotel employees in that state routinely gave immigration agents personal information about guests, including their names, birth dates and license plate numbers. At least 9,000 names were turned over, according to the suit, though only six were known to have been detained.
Washington’s attorney general, Robert W. Ferguson, said that he began an inquiry after reading reports about the activity in Arizona, which prompted widespread condemnation and calls to boycott the hotel chain. One of those articles quoted an immigration lawyer who said he had heard about the same thing happening in Washington.
“Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”
As part of Ferguson’s investigation, Motel 6 initially provided information about 11 of its 26 locations in Washington, six of which, the company said, had been assisting immigration agents. As the inquiry continues, the number of names turned over, and people detained as a result, will most likely go up, Ferguson said.
So far, his office has requested information about two years of hotel practices through September, when the company, after the reports from Arizona, introduced a nationwide policy barring employees from providing guest names to law enforcement unless they were compelled to.
“To help ensure that this does not occur again, we will be issuing a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations nationwide, making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Raiza Rehkoff, a spokeswoman for G6 Hospitality, the Texas-based parent company of Motel 6, said at the time.
In response to questions about the lawsuit in Washington, Jillian Perera, a spokeswoman for G6, reiterated that employees nationwide had been forbidden in September from engaging in the practice. “Motel 6 takes this matter very seriously,” she added, “and we have and will continue to fully cooperate with the office of the state attorney general.”
Ferguson said that his staff had interviewed Motel 6 employees, who described how the information was provided to ICE agents.
The lawsuit says that an ICE agent would come to the reception desk and request the guest list, sometimes daily. The receptionist would print out the list and give it to the agent, along with a “law enforcement acknowledgment form” for the agent to sign, confirming receipt of the information.
“Motel 6 staff observed ICE identify guests of interest to ICE, including by circling guests with Latino-sounding names,” the lawsuit said.
The suit asserts that in cooperating with ICE, Motel 6 employees violated state and federal laws that protect consumers and those that guard against discrimination, as well as the state constitution. The motel furnished the names even though ICE provided no search warrant or evidence of reasonable suspicion that unauthorized immigrants were staying there, the suit said.
ICE, which is not a defendant in the lawsuit, said that it would not comment on the case. 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.”
“It’s worth noting that hotels and motels have frequently been exploited by criminal organizations engaged in highly dangerous illegal enterprises, including human trafficking and human smuggling,” she said.