Washington State AG sues Motel 6 for offering free ICE with every stay

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing Motel 6 claiming the chain has been giving out information on its customers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. From the Washington Post:

Filed in state Superior Court on Wednesday, Ferguson’s complaint sketches out the informal policy he said facilitated the release of the guest information at Motel 6 locations.

ICE agents, who are tasked with arresting people who are not legal residents for deportation, would be given a guest list from the hotel’s receptionist, along with a form to sign confirming the lists’ receipt. The roster included information such as guests’ driver’s license number, room number, date of birth and license plate number.

At one location, “ICE agents visited the motels early in the morning or late at night, requested the day’s guest list, circled any Latino-sounding names and returned to their vehicles.”

A Washington newspaper, the Colombian, reports that a man named Ramon Flores-Garcia may have been deported after a tip from a Motel 6 in Everett:

Ramon Flores-Garcia had been living in the United States for about 20 years when he was detained by ICE agents while working in Everett on Valentine’s Day. He was deported in August to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, leaving behind his wife of 14 years and seven children.

Flores, then 43, was staying at one of the two Motel 6 locations in Everett at the time. His family previously said he was stopped a few blocks away from the motel.

The family was unsure why Flores was stopped and initially thought a competing business reported him. But upon learning of the Attorney General’s Office’s investigation, they now believe “he was most likely detained because of Motel 6,” Flores’ daughter, 21-year-old Leslie Flores, wrote in an email to The Columbian on Wednesday.

Washington state Supreme Court precedent says hotel guest information is not subject to random searches. The AG’s lawsuit claims private information on at least 9,000 individuals was shown to ICE agents and is suing for $2,000 per violation which comes to $18 million.

The investigation in Washington was prompted by a newspaper story published last year which indicated that two Motel 6 locations in the city of Phoenix, AZ were tipping off ICE agents, leading to at least 20 arrests:

Phoenix New Times review of court records found that between February and August, ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at Motel 6s, showing up roughly every two weeks. (Since many of the documents we reviewed contained only vague details about where ICE encountered an individual, the actual number is likely even higher.)

All took place at one of two Motel 6 locations: 4130 North Black Canyon Highway or 1530 North 52nd Drive. Both are in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. New Times was unable to find records indicating that ICE conducted arrests at other local motels during this same time period.

At the time, Motel 6 which has both corporate and franchise locations, claimed this was a local situation not endorsed by the company’s management. Motel 6 issued a directive to all of its 1,400 locations stating that guests lists were not to be provided to ICE.