The Washington state attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit against Motel 6 Wednesday, accusing the budget motel chain of illegally sharing information about guests with immigration authorities.
The lawsuit alleges that at least six Motel 6 locations in Washington regularly provided information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who used the data to make arrests. Motel managers singled out guests by their national identity, focusing on those with “Latino-sounding” names, according to Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson.
Motel 6 came under fire in September, when local media outlets reported that two of the company’s Arizona locations had been turning over guest information to ICE agents searching for illegal immigrants. In response to the reports, Motel 6’s parent company, G6 Hospitality, issued a directive prohibiting all locations from voluntarily giving guest information to immigration officials.
That directive was ignored in Washington state, Ferguson said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” he said. “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.”
Prosecutors allege that four Motel 6 locations released the information of more than 9,000 guests to ICE, in violation of the company’s privacy policies. The information given to immigration authorities included guests’ names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers.
The voluntary release of that information is a deceptive business practice and a violation of Washington state consumer protection laws, according to the lawsuit. Prosecutors also allege that Motel 6 violated state discrimination laws by singling out customers with Hispanic-sounding names.
Washington state’s lawsuit asks for for a permanent injunction blocking the company from voluntarily sharing guest information with federal agents and for civil fines and attorney fees.
Motel 6 said in a statement that it had ordered its locations in September not to share guest information without a warrant and would work with state investigators.
“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 company said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
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