Washington state’s attorney general sued the Motel 6 hotel chain yesterday (January 3) for illegally sharing the personal information of people with “Latino-sounding names” with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, which led to the arrests of at least six people, according to a Reuters report.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson said six Motel 6 outlets in the state provided ICE with the names, birth dates and license plate numbers of 9,151 guests between June 2015 and May 2017. The lawsuit charges the bargain hotel chain with violating Washington state’s privacy laws and deceptive business practices. It also seeks civil fines of up to $2,000 per violation of state anti-discrimination laws.
The lawsuit states:
This information was provided on an almost daily basis by some motels without the ICE agents having provided any documentation or evidence of reasonable suspicion, probable cause or a search warrant for the requested guest registry information. Motel 6 was aware that the ICE agents used the guest registry information to identify and single out guests based on national origin, including guests with Latino-sounding names. ICE would then determine if any of the guests it identified were wanted by ICE in connection with civil immigration matters. On a number of occasions, ICE agents arrested or otherwise detained guests after reviewing Motel 6’s guest registry information.
In a statement to Reuters, G6, Motel 6’s management company, said it takes the lawsuit "very seriously," and that it will fully cooperate with the state attorney general.
But Ferguson said Motel 6 trained new employees to cooperate with ICE officials, and that the hotel chain’s actions in Washington mirrored similar practices in Arizona. Said Ferguson, in a statement:
Motel 6 implied this was a local problem. We have found that is not true.
In September, the Phoenix New Times reported that ICE agents in Arizona used the same tactics employed in Washington state to arrest 20 Motel 6 guests between February and August 2017. Motel 6 employees in Arizona told the newspaper that it was standard practice to share guests’ personal information with ICE. One hotel clerk told the paper:
We send a report every morning to ICE—all the names of everybody that comes in. Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do an audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.
Motel 6 is not alone in sharing guest lists with police authorities. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Los Angeles police officers cannot force hotel and motel owners to turn over their guest registries without a warrant. The 5-4 vote in Los Angeles v. Patel ruled that a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotel owners to retain records of their guests violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantees against unreasonable searches.