By Jessica Campisi and Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN
Motel 6 has reached a tentative agreement in a lawsuit that claims it discriminated against some of its Latino guests and violated their privacy, a civil rights group says.
The suit says two Phoenix locations of the hotel chain gave details of at least seven guests’ whereabouts and handed other personal information over to federal immigration agents before the guests got arrested.
The claim was filed by a Latino civil rights group, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
The suit also alleges Motel 6 has a practice of giving guests’ check-in information to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a warrant or a reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is going on. Turning over their information to ICE is a violation of their privacy, the suit says.
Motel 6 has agreed to settle the suit, but it’s subject to a federal judge’s approval.
MALDEF officials say they’ve reached a settlement, but they’re not releasing details yet. CNN has reached out to Motel 6 officials for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
What the plaintiffs say happened
Court documents describe one account of what allegedly took place at a Phoenix Motel 6.
Last June, a woman and her four kids checked in at the Black Canyon Motel 6 to get out of the heat because their apartment didn’t have air conditioning, the lawsuit says.
When she registered, she showed a hotel employee her Mexican consular ID. The worker photocopied it.
Early the next morning, three ICE agents banged on the woman’s hotel room door. They called themselves police, the document says.
When the woman opened the door, the agents interrogated her in front of her kids. They asked her to confirm her identity and threatened to separate her from her children, so she cooperated.
Before they left, the agents gave the woman a letter telling her to go to an ICE office. When she got there, she was fingerprinted and interrogated again by an ICE agent.
The woman asked the agent if a Motel 6 employee had given them her information. The agent laughed and said her name just happened to pop up in the system. After that, the suit says, they arrested her without a warrant.
The court documents list several similar stories that claim the motel violated the rights of its Latino customers. Of eight Latino guests who stayed at the Phoenix-area motels, they say seven were arrested. At least one of the individuals arrested was subsequently deported, the suit says.
“At all relevant times, Motel 6 directed and supervised its employees’ conduct pursuant to its policy and/or practice of disclosing guest registration information to DHS and ICE agents,” the suit says.
Since the suit was filed, Motel 6 has said it will stop sharing its guest lists with ICE.
The company said in a statement last September it was reviewing practices to “help ensure that our broader engagement with law enforcement is done in a manner that is respectful of our guests’ rights.”
“Protecting the privacy and security of our guests are core values of our company,” the statement said.
“We will always endeavor to make that disclosure in accordance with applicable law,” it says.
The Arizona allegations aren’t the only ones of this kind against the motel chain, which has more than 1,400 locations across the US and Canada.
The state of Washington sued Motel 6 in January, claiming ICE officials were going to Motel 6 locations in the state and asking for guest lists without a warrant.
ICE officials would get information like guests’ names, birth dates, license plate numbers and driver’s license numbers. They’d use the list to try and find undocumented immigrants, the suit alleges.
More than 9,150 guests who stayed at the chain within Washington had their privacy rights violated, the suit says.
Motel 6 said last fall that all its locations were sent a directive in September “making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to (ICE). Motel 6 takes this matter very seriously, and we have and will continue to fully cooperate with the Office of the State Attorney General.”