Motel 6 will pay a $12 million settlement to Washington state after employees at several of the chain’s locations shared information – without a warrant – on 80,000 guests in the state with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over a two-year period.
“Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a release. “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.”
Between 2015-2017, Motel 6 employees at seven locations in the state shared guest lists with ICE that included private information on all guests staying at a hotel location, violating, the AG’s office said, their expectation of privacy. ICE used those list to target guests with Latino-sounding names.
The practice wasn’t limited to Motel 6 in Washington but rather happened around the country.
The Phoenix New Times reported in September 2017 that an employee at one of two Phoenix-area Motel 6 locations said, “every morning at about 5 o’clock we do the audit and push a button and it sends it to ICE,” prompting the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to call out the motel chain on both Twitter and Facebook. “Is this your official company policy?” the ACLU tweeted.
However, as experts have pointed out there is no law that compels hotels to voluntarily give up guest information to law enforcement.
After the “information sharing” came to light, the hotel chain said it would take steps to shut down or prevent similar operations at its other properties nationwide and under the terms of the settlement with Washington it is doing just that.
Ferguson’s office said Motel 6 signed a legally binding commitment, saying it wouldn’t share guest information at all locations unless presented with a warrant or other lawful basis. The hotel chain will also train employees on the new policy and provide a 24-hour hotline to address employee questions. Motel 6 will also offer a way for guests to report online any incidents of in which they believe guest information has been shared unlawfully.