Motel 6 has stopped cooperating with federal immigration authorities and will no longer help Immigration and Customs Enforcement with its checks.
The announcement came in response to a lawsuit filed by Washington State Attorney General Robert W. Ferguson that accused the hotel chain of illegally giving guests information to ICE, who would check the list and determine if it was suspicious of any of the hotel’s patrons, the Seattle Times reported.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said motel employees divulged the names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, license-plate numbers and room numbers of at least 9,150 guests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant. At least six people were detained on or near motel property during a two-year period.
Motel 6 was aware that the agents used the guest-registry information to single out guests based on their national origin in violation of Washington state’s anti-discrimination law, the state’s lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court alleged.
Ferguson said at least six Motel 6 locations in the state — all in the Puget Sound region and corporate-owned — provided the information without guests’ knowledge or consent. Washington’s Supreme Court makes it clear that guest-registry information is private, he said, and Motel 6 violated the law each time it gave out private information.
“Motel 6 staff observed ICE identify guests of interest to ICE, including by circling guests with Latino-sounding names,” the lawsuit reads. According to the lawsuit, at one Motel 6 in Everett, immigration officials “visited early in the morning or late at night and received a daily list of all guests staying at the location.”
“Motel 6’s actions are disturbing and they are unlawful,” Ferguson said.
“According to Motel 6 staff, the ICE agents circled any Latino or Latina sounding names on the guest registry and returned to their vehicles, presumably to run those names through a database,” he said. He added that this practice occurred 228 times in 225 days at the Everett location, but said that it had been going on since 2015.
According to Ferguson one person was taken into custody by ICE at the Everett hotel, CNN reported. But the practice was not limited to Everett.
Motel 6 admitted six motels provided information to agents even though they didn’t have warrants, Ferguson said. He told reporters that four of those locations informed his office about the 9,000-plus names, but he believes the total is incomplete.
Two other motels also didn’t release the numbers of guests involved, so the figure of people affected will be significantly higher, he indicated.
Ferguson said Motel 6 told investigators that the other five corporate-owned units in the state didn’t release guest lists to ICE.
What the other 15 Motel 6 locations did is part of an ongoing investigation, he said.
Motel 6 issued a statement saying that it had instructed its employees to no longer cooperate with ICE.
“In September, Motel 6 issued a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations, making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” it said.
“Motel 6 takes this matter very seriously, and we have and will continue to fully cooperate with the Office of the State Attorney General,” it added.
Because it is not a defendant in the case, ICE would not comment on the specifics of the case. But it did issue a statement.
“Due to operational security, (ICE) does not typically disclose or discuss specific information related to the source of its enforcement leads,” Danielle Bennett, a spokeswoman for ICE said. “The agency’s 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.”