Motel 6 has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit after admitting at least six of its Washington state locations voluntarily reported guests to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement over a two-year span.
The budget motel chain, which operates in the U.S. and Canada, also said it would provide training to its employees to ensure they will no longer share guests’ private information without a warrant, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday.
“Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “Any other business that tries to violate Washingtonians’ right to privacy can expect to hear from my office.”
Ferguson filed the lawsuit against Motel 6 in January 2018, alleging the company carried out “unfair, deceptive and discriminatory practices” by unlawfully providing personal identifying information about guests to ICE.
From 2015 to 2017, seven Motel 6 locations in Washington state shared the personal information of roughly 80,000 guests with ICE, though the agency did not provide a warrant to obtain such information, according to Ferguson’s office.
These disclosures reportedly led to targeted ICE raids near or on the Motel 6 properties, resulting in some guests losing their homes and jobs and being separated from their families.
In one instance, ICE agents detained a man in the parking lot of a Motel 6 near Seattle, where he was staying one night to wrap Christmas presents for his children, according to Ferguson’s office. He was reportedly deported days later. Ferguson’s office said he was the sole provider of his household and his wife is now struggling to support their toddler and four other children.
The $12 million collected from Motel 6 will be used in part to provide restitution and monetary damages to tens of thousands of guests whose information was illegally provided to ICE, according to the settlement agreement.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office, as part of the agreement, will monitor the company’s policies and training procedures for the next three years.
“The safety and security of our guests, which includes protecting guest information, is our top priority,” a company spokesperson said in the statement. “We are pleased to be able to reach resolution in this matter.”
Ferguson’s office began investigating Motel 6’s practices following The Phoenix New Times’ report in September 2017 that found at least two locations in Arizona were voluntarily providing guests’ information to ICE.
“We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” an unidentified front-desk clerk at a Motel 6 location in Phoenix, Arizona, told the New Times. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
In November 2018, Motel 6 agreed to pay $7.8 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of eight Latino immigrants who were detained as a result of Motel 6 employees in Arizona sharing their information with ICE.