Motel 6 Plotted With ICE to Deport Immigrants, Guests Claim

(Bloomberg) -- A woman and her husband checked into a Motel 6 on June 28, 2017, seeking air-conditioned relief from Phoenix temperatures surpassing 100 degrees.

The next morning, the couple was awakened by immigration agents pounding on the door and subsequently detained. Two days later, the wife was deported to Mexico. She blames the motel.

Jane N. and her husband, John M., are among eight people identified by pseudonyms who claim in a lawsuit that the discount chain disclosed its guest logs to federal immigration agents so they could round up undocumented residents. In a complaint filed Tuesday as a class action in Arizona federal court, they accuse parent company G6 Hospitality of conspiring with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to violate their rights under the U.S. Constitution and Arizona’s false imprisonment law.

Motel 6 said it put all of its 1,400 locations on notice in September that they are “prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to (ICE).”

“While we cannot comment on specific pending litigation, we take this issue and the privacy of our guests very seriously,” company spokeswoman Raiza Rehkoff said in a statement.

The suit is the latest fallout from September news reports that some Motel 6 locations in Arizona were sharing customer information with ICE agents. The company, which was acquired in 2012 by Blackstone Group LP as part of a $1.9 billion deal, responded by blaming employees.

‘Company Policy’

Jane N. thinks otherwise. In her complaint, she accuses Motel 6 of willful cooperation with ICE “in violation of the company’s written assurances that it protects the privacy of its guests.” Both Phoenix properties are owned by G6 Hospitality, not individual franchisees, according to a copy of the lawsuit provided by the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The filing wasn’t immediately available from the court.

As early as February 2017, Motel 6 directed its employees to provide guest registration information to ICE agents, or to “act for the benefit of law enforcement” when approached by ICE, according to the complaint, which was brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

That’s less than a month after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to deport “bad hombres” of Latino heritage and build a border wall with Mexico. He has since called for faster deportations and announced plans to end an Obama administration program protecting undocumented children brought to the country. ICE has said deportations surged 40% in the first 100 days of Trump’s administration.

Washington Suit

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the company on Jan. 3, accusing it of violating state privacy and discrimination laws by providing to ICE agents some 9,000 names, including some subsequently detained Latinos.

All eight of the people suing in Arizona were detained from a pair of Motel 6 branches outside Phoenix from June 25, 2017, to July 18. In all but one instance, they presented Motel 6 staff with Mexican identification cards, which were then photocopied. In the case of Jane V., who stayed at Motel 6 with her four children, ICE agents entered her hotel room allegedly waiving a sheet of paper with her name and room number on it. The paper also carried Motel 6’s logo, according to the filing.

“As was the plan, no arrest or search warrants were ever obtained by ICE for any guests at any Motel 6 locations,” according to the complaint. “Instead, without judicial or administrative warrants, ICE agents supported by Motel 6 and its employees, unlawfully detained, interrogated and arrested individuals without cause or consent and in violation of guests’ Constitutional rights.”

Jane V. says her kids are afraid of being left alone in America.

“It was a terrifying experience,” Jane V., who’s now facing deportation proceedings. “You live with fear everyday."

The case is Unknown Party v. Motel 6, 2:18-cv-00242, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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