After two Motel 6 locations were under media scrutiny for reporting guests to immigration officials in Arizona, Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson decided to sue the chain for violating the state’s consumer protection law.
Ferguson alleges that motel employees across The Evergreen State shared personal information as well as room details of at least 9,150 guests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The information, which included names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and license plate numbers, was all surrendered to immigration officials without a warrant.
Within a two-year period, the scheme led to at least six arrests on or near a motel property.
But despite the motels’ actions, the state’s Supreme Court makes clear that guest information is always private. And for private information to be released, authorities must first seek a warrant.
In many of these cases, Ferguson found out, agents would regularly visit the motels early in the morning or late at night for a list compiled by staff with "Latino-sounding names." Officials would then investigate in order to figure out if any of those guests were undocumented and had been named in civil immigration cases.
At least six Motel 6 locations in the Puget Sound region are being named in the suit.
When asked to comment, Motel 6 shared a statement saying that the company “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).”
Ferguson stated that the decision to investigate came after the two Arizona Motel 6 units were named in an article showing that the facilities had racially profiled guests and then shared their private information with immigration officials.
As we can see, the Arizona cases weren't part of an isolated incident. Instead, the suit alleges, Motel 6 appears to have had employees share private information voluntarily in another state, as well.
"The company's actions were methodical. They trained their new employees on how to do this," Ferguson said, accusing the company of making it a policy to share guest information with immigration authorities.
As Ferguson sues the hospitality chain, he is also looking into other 15 Motel 6 locations that aren't run by the corporate office that may have shared guests' private information.
If the state is successful, Motel 6 would have to pay civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation. Considering that thousands of guests were impacted, the penalties may hurt the chain.
It's disheartening to learn that a company would report on people because of their ethnicity and share their personal information illegally. Hopefully, other companies will be discouraged from doing the same thanks to Ferguson's initiative.
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