Motel 6 to Pay $7.6 Million for Helping ICE Target Guests With ‘Latino-Sounding Names’

By Shani Saxon Nov 08, 2018

Guests who filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit against discount hotel chain Motel 6 just scored a major victory. The corporation has agreed to pay $7.6 million to people whose private information it shared with agents at Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), according to a November 6 report in The Washington Post.

The case was born in September 2017 after Phoenix New Times reported that hotel employees were working with ICE. “We send a report every morning to ICE—all the names of everybody that comes in,” a front desk clerk in Phoenix told the local outlet. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.” 

That practice resulted in ICE making at least 20 arrests between February and August 2017. A few months later in January 2018, Washington state’s attorney general sued the Motel Six chain for illegally providing ICE with the personal information of guests with “Latino-sounding names.” The lawsuit charged Motel 6 with violating the state’s privacy laws and deceptive business practices. Shortly after that, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a class-action lawsuit against Motel 6 on behalf of seven class representatives from Arizona and one from Washington state, The Post reports. 

Under the settlement agreement, the hotel chain also agreed to no longer share guests’ personal details with authorities in the absence of a warrant or subpoena. Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel at MALDEF, spoke to The Post about the case. “It’s very important in our minds that Motel 6 is putting in place policies and procedures that would prevent this from happening again,” Saenz told the outlet. And although the hotel did not admit to any wrongdoing, the company did make a joint statement with MALDEF, insisting the company does not allow employees to share guests’ personal information. “Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation 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,” reads the statement.

The proposed settlement, which still needs to be approved by the district court, says the company will “pay up to $5.6 million (at least $7,500 per guest) to those who were placed in immigration-removal proceedings; up to $1 million (at least $1,000 per guest) to those who were interrogated; and up to $1 million (at least $50 per guest) to those whose personal information was given to federal authorities.”

Motel 6 is also expected to cover legal fees for all guests named in the lawsuit.