Washington state suit claims Motel 6 shared guest info with ICE

Motel 6 employees were previously accused of sharing guest information with ICE in September.

If something happens once, it’s chance. If it happens twice, it’s coincidence. Three times, and it’s a pattern. Motel 6 may not get to three strikes, however, as the company is accused of violating guest privacy for a second time in less than six months.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Motel 6 on Wednesday over allegations the hotel chain disclosed private guest information to U.S. immigration authorities. Ferguson said Motel 6 employees handed over the names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, license-plate numbers and room numbers for at least 9,150 guests to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency without a warrant. Ferguson claims these actions are in violation of the state’s consumer-protection laws.

The state’s lawsuit, which was filed in King County Superior Court, also alleges that Motel 6 was aware ICE agents had access to guest registry information, which they used to determine guests' national origin. As a result, the district attorney claims at least six individuals were detained on or near Motel 6 properties over a two-year period. If true, this would violate Washington state’s anti-discrimination law.

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Ferguson’s lawsuit points to at least six corporate-owned Motel 6 locations in Washington state’s Puget Sound region that provided ICE with guest information without notifying guests or asking for their consent. Guest-registry information is private, and Ferguson said in a statement that Motel 6 violated the law each time it gave out private information. A further 15 other Motel 6 properties operating as franchises are also under investigation, though the lawsuit notes five locations did not disclose any guest information. 

Now, the state is seeking civil penalties of up to $2,000 for each violation.

Will guests continue to be free with their information if they don't know who will see it? 

These allegations come some four months after it was revealed Motel 6 employees in Arizona had been providing ICE agents with guest information, leading to at least 20 arrests at two Phoenix Motel 6 properties. At the time, ICE declined to comment on where it receives its information, or if the organization was in contact with hotels to procure guest lists. Motel 6 also maintained at the time that the actions were “undertaken at the local level and without knowledge of senior management.”

In a new corporate statement released today, Motel 6 maintains that it is against the practice, and has immediately taken action:

“In September, Motel 6 issued a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations, making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (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,” the statement reads.

However, Ferguson said in a statement that the practice was not unique to the company’s two locations in Phoenix, and claimed Motel 6 trained new employees to provide guest lists to agents when asked, without requiring a search warrant or probable cause.

“The company’s actions were methodical,” Ferguson said in a statement. “They trained their new employees on how to do this.”

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