Motel 6 to Pay $12 Million After Sharing Guest Info with ICE
|thenorthstar||Apr 9, 2019|
Motel 6 will pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Washington that accuses several locations of the hotel chain of providing personal guest information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents for more than two years. The company illegally shared information of nearly 80,000 guests on a daily basis between February 2015 and September 2017, prompting ICE agents to carry out investigations into individuals whose names appeared to sound Latino, the Washington State Attorney General’s office said in an April 4 statement. The office noted that seven locations handed over private information to officials without a warrant or the consent of their guests, which resulted in the loss of homes and jobs, as well as family separation. Prior to ICE’s daily inspections, involved Motel 6 locations printed out guest lists and a form called the “law enforcement acknowledgment form,” which was signed by ICE agents.
“Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant. Any other business that tries to violate Washingtonians’ right to privacy can expect to hear from my office.”
The investigation found that ICE agents questioned, detained, and deported several Motel 6 customers. One Seattle man staying at a Motel 6 was wrapping Christmas gifts for his four children before ICE agents approached him at the hotel’s parking lot, detained him, and deported him days later. The man was the only breadwinner in the house, and his wife is struggling to make ends meet.
Following the disclosure of personal information, another man lost his job after being detained by ICE agents at a Motel 6 parking lot when he was buying milk for his baby. He was released six days later and remains in the US, though he is struggling to find another job.
The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit in January 2018 on the grounds that Motel 6 violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination. In addition to the hefty settlement, the company agreed to ensure the privacy of its guests and provide restitution and monetary compensation to 80,000 individuals. Motel 6 will also ensure that no information will be provided without a search warrant or a feasible reason to determine whether an individual poses any threat.
Motel 6 will also provide training to all employees who have access to guest information. Under the agreement, the company will create an online mechanism that would allow guests to report any incidents of unlawful disclosure of personal data. Additional reports revealed that Motel 6 has previously engaged in unlawful practices. A 2017 investigation from Phoenix New Times reporter Antonia Farzan found that two locations in Arizona were sharing information with ICE agents.
"We got a tip that this was happening, started talking to local immigration attorneys and definitely kept hearing from people that this was a trend," Farzan told NPR at the time. "They didn't really know what was behind it but that they kept seeing people get picked up at Motel 6."
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Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.