Motel 6 locations in Washington state gave information about thousands of guests to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leading to the detention of at least six people, the state’s attorney general alleged in a lawsuit on Wednesday.
The lawsuit comes after the Phoenix New Times revealed in September that staff at two Motel 6 branches in Arizona were giving ICE their guest registries ― something the hotel chain said at the time was “implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”
The practice was actually far more widespread, according to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose office carried out an investigation into Motel 6 practices in Washington following the reports from Arizona.
Ferguson’s office found that Motel 6 locations in Washington were also providing ICE with customers’ names, room numbers, license plate numbers and dates of birth, in violation of consumer protection and discrimination laws, the attorney general said.
“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said in a statement. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”
Motel 6 did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After the Phoenix New Times report in September, Motel 6′s corporate office said it would issue a directive to all U.S. locations telling employees they were prohibited from voluntarily providing ICE with guest lists.
Ferguson’s office said that Motel 6 admitted that at least six locations in the state ― in Bellingham, Everett, Seattle, SeaTac and Tacoma ― have given guest registry information to ICE agents since 2015.
According to the attorney general’s office, those branches released the information of about 9,000 people ― and likely many more, because the company only gave full details on four of the locations. It is not clear whether any of the locations have given out information since September, when Motel 6 says it banned the practice.
Motel 6 trained employees to give guest registries to ICE upon request and did not require a warrant, Ferguson’s office alleged. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that law enforcement officials are not allowed to force hotels to turn over guest information without a warrant.
At a Motel 6 location in Everett, Washington, employees gave guests’ information to ICE about 228 times in a 225-day period, according to Ferguson’s office, which alleges that ICE agents routinely visited the motel, asked for a guest list and circled Latino-sounding names.
Ferguson’s office says Motel 6 was aware that ICE was using the information to target guests based on their national origin, and had therefore violated the state’s anti-discrimination law.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said that the agency will not comment on the lawsuit because it is not a party to the litigation and that it “does not typically disclose or discuss specific information related to the source of its enforcement leads.”
“The agency receives viable enforcement tips from a host of sources, including other law enforcement agencies, relevant databases, crime victims, and the general public via the agency’s tip line and online tip form,” O’Keefe said in a statement.
“The agency’s immigration enforcement actions are targeted and lead driven, prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to our communities. It’s worth noting that hotels and motels have frequently been exploited by criminal organizations engaged in highly dangerous illegal enterprises, including human trafficking and human smuggling,” the statement added.
This story has been updated with a statement from ICE.