How did Motel 6 wind up owing millions for cooperating with ICE?

Motel 6 (“We’ll leave the light on for you“) will soon have a bit less money to pay the electric bill for all those lights they’re leaving on. They’ve been forced to settle a lawsuit brought against them for sharing guest list information with ICE. And the bill for that settlement is going to cost them twelve million dollars. But since when is it okay to refuse law enforcement when they request information in the course of investigating a possible crime? Well, this is Washington State we’re talking about, and it’s all sanctuary city rules I suppose. (ABC News)

Motel 6 agreed to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit that accused several Washington state locations of sharing personal guest information with U.S. immigration officials.

The budget motel operator illegally shared the personal information of about 80,000 customers for more than two years, resulting in a “targeted” ICE investigation into guests with Latino-sounding names, the Washington state attorney general’s office announced Thursday.

The office said operators at seven Washington locations had voluntarily shared their guest lists with ICE agents between February 2015 and September 2017, without requiring a warrant.

What’s missing here is an explanation of how the sharing of guest information was arranged. The motel chain has a policy in place not to share guest information in the interest of privacy, but that doesn’t generally extend to law enforcement. And the people who were eventually arrested had little to complain about in terms of privacy anyway.

The ABC News article goes to great lengths to point out the trauma experienced by the people ICE picked up. Some people were “separated from their families.” Another man was, “taken into custody at a Seattle location, where he was staying to wrap Christmas presents for his four children.” Mom wound up having to wrap the presents because dad was then deported.

Let’s just cut to the chase here. If those people were detained and then deported, they were in the country illegally. And they were presumably staying in the hotel with other patrons who were legal residents of the United States. Exactly who are we trying to protect by going after Motel 6 in this scenario?

Strangely, the motel chain reiterated its privacy policy in their statement about the settlement. In it, they include the fact that they don’t share guest information with law enforcement, “except in cases where a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena is present or local law requires release of the information.” So this is a situational rule? If local rules permit it, the municipal police can just walk up and ask for the guest list. But if ICE shows up they’re supposed to already have a warrant without even knowing who is staying there.

Right. That sounds sensible. (/sarc) We should also keep in mind that Motel 6 has outlets all over the country. If there is a patchwork of laws covering these requests, how are they supposed to put out a consistent set of rules as to how to handle these requests? None of this makes any sense, but it’s just life in the 21st century, I suppose.