'Motel 6' To Pay $12 Million After Giving ICE Info On 80,000 'Latino-Sounding' Guests

More than a year after Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched a lawsuit against Motel 6 when it was discovered that several locations gave information on thousands of guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without warrants, the hotel chain has agreed to a $12 million settlement

AG Ferguson said on Thursday that Motel 6 shared the information of around 80,000 guests in Washington state between 2015 and 2017, according to NPR. Ferguson added that the lists resulted in targeted investigations of many guests with Latino-sounding names, and that ICE had questioned, detained or deported people as a result of the disclosures. 

"ICE agents would circle the names that looked Latino-sounding and ran those names through a database and then would detain individuals based on those random checks," Ferguson told NPR's Scott Simon last January

The hotel chain has also signed a legally binding, nationwide commitment to stop sharing guest information without a warrant. 

"Motel 6's actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians," said Ferguson in a statement

Motel 6 told NPR in an emailed statement that it would "continue to enforce its guest privacy policy, which prohibits the sharing of guest information except in cases where a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena is present, or local law requires this information."

"The company has also implemented a system of additional controls to ensure corporate oversight and compliance in cases where law enforcement requests are made."

The Phoenix New Times first uncovered the practice in September 2017 when reporter Antonia Farzan investigated two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix.

"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's Ari Shapiro at the time. "They didn't really know what was behind it but that they kept seeing people get picked up at Motel 6."

Following initial media reports, Motel 6 released a statement saying that the practice had been discontinued and that it would issue a directive to each of its locations to clarify "that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE." The hotel said at the time that the practice was implemented "at the local level without the knowledge of senior management." -NPR

Ferguson's statement on the settlement detailed several cases in which guests were detained and deported. 

"ICE agents approached him in the hotel's parking lot, detained him and deported him some days later," adding "The man was the sole provider for the household, and his wife is currently struggling to support their toddler and four other children."

Some might argue that's the risk one takes when residing in a country illegally. 

ICE agents in Phoenix would reportedly perform "knock and talks" at the locations after receiving the guest lists - in which officers would show up at the hotel without a warrant, knock on doors, and attempt to gain entry into hotel rooms to make arrests.