The practice was the result of an informal arrangement: seven Motel 6 locations in Washington state shared the personal information of its guests with federal immigration officials on a daily basis between 2015 and 2017, authorities said. Of the 80,000 guests whose information was shared, at least nine were detained, officials said.
But on Friday the practice, which Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said constituted an illegal invasion of privacy in a lawsuit he filed against the national hotel chain, reached a final conclusion after it agreed to a $12 million settlement with guests who had been affected.
Every guest who had their information shared with ICE is eligible for restitution. The office said it would not require claimants to disclose their immigration status.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, which was filed in January 2018, was prompted by a news report in the Phoenix New Times that uncovered the practice at some Motel 6 locations in Arizona in September 2017.
The New Times found that ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at two Motel 6 locations in a period in the seven months prior. After the outcry sparked by the report, the company apologized and issued the directive to its more than 1,400 locations that they were "prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE."
But Ferguson said the practice was not limited to Arizona: He found Motel 6 locations in Washington state that were providing guest lists to federal immigration agents without reasonable suspicion, probable cause or search warrants, his office said. The information that was given to ICE included guests' names, driver's license numbers, passport, green card and other ID numbers, room numbers, dates of birth and license plate numbers, it said.
The practice violated the Consumer Protection Act and Washington state laws against discrimination, according to the lawsuit; Ferguson's office said that guests with Latino-sounding names were singled out at least some of the time.
"In anticipation of ICE's daily visits, some Motel 6 locations routinely printed their guest lists and a form, referred to as a 'law enforcement acknowledgement form,' which the ICE agents signed upon receiving the day's guest list," Ferguson's office said Friday. "At the two Everett locations, for example, ICE agents routinely visited the motels early in the morning, sometimes twice a day, from February 2015 through September 2017. ICE agents requested the day's guest list, circled guests with Latino-sounding names and returned to their vehicles."
Ferguson said that at least nine people were detained as a result of the practice, although it is unknown how many were deported.
One man from Seattle, who stayed at a Motel 6 near the Seattle-Tacoma airport for one night to wrap Christmas presents for his four children, was detained and deported after being approached by ICE agents in the hotel's parking lot. Ferguson's office did not release his name but said that he was the sole provider for his wife and their four children.
Another father, the primary breadwinner for his wife and six children, who had lived in the United States for more than 20 years, was detained after staying at a Motel 6 to pick up supplies for his grocery business.
And a Washington man who lived in the United States since he was 1 year old was detained as he was going to get milk for his baby from a car in a Motel 6 parking lot, Ferguson said. That man was released after being detained for six days, but lost his job.
A resolution that was part of the settlement stipulates that Motel 6 will not provide guest information to law enforcement authorities without "a judicially enforceable search warrant or a credible reason to believe that someone is in imminent danger," Ferguson said.
"The company has also implemented a system of additional controls to ensure corporate oversight and compliance in cases where law enforcement requests are made," said a statement from Motel 6 spokeswoman Maggie Giddens. "The safety and security of our guests, which includes protecting guest information, is our top priority, and we are pleased to be able to reach resolution in this matter."
ICE declined to comment through spokesman Richard Rocha.
“Motel 6′s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant.”