The Motel 6 chain is being sued by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) for cooperating with federal immigration authorities. According to Ferguson’s office, its investigation started after two of the Motel 6 locations in Arizona provided guests’ personal information to officials of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Another six Motel 6 locations in Washington State gave the same information about 9,100 guests to ICE, according to Wednesday’s statement by Ferguson’s office.

Ferguson said in the statement, “Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination.” The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court. “I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”

The Motel 6 locations disclosed information that included the birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and license plate numbers to ICE, in violated of Motel 6’s privacy policies, Ferguson’s office said. The motel locations also violated the Consumer Protection Act and Washington’s Law Against Discrimination, Ferguson’s office added while claiming that Motel 6 knew that ICE agents were targeting Spanish-surnamed guests. 

According to the statement, ICE officers visited Motel 6 locations in Washington State, including one in southEverett, where they obtained a guest list from the front desk, circle what were apparently Spanish surnames. Ferguson’s office said that on one occasion, ICE detained someone staying at the motel. The south Everett location provided guests’ personal information 228 times in a 225-day period, according to the suit.

In the past, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that hotel guest registry information is private, arguing that its use by law enforcement would violate the right to privacy found in the state's constitution. Ferguson’s office is demanding that Motel 6 pay as much as $2,000 for each customer’s information it gave to ICE. This could mean a cost of at least $18.2 million, plus court costs and fees.

In September 2017, after media reports suggested that employees at Motel 6 locations in Arizona had been sending guest information directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Motel 6 chain released a statement saying that the sharing of guest information was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”

“When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued,” Motel 6 wrote in the statement that was posted on Twitter and Facebook.

When the company encountered further criticism, a new statement from Motel 6 indicated that it was issuing a directive to each of its more than 1,400 locations nationwide, “making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.”

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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