Motel 6 has agreed to pay at least $7.6 million to settle a class-action lawsuit after multiple locations of the hotel chain surrendered guest lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Divulging those lists led to arrests and deportations of an as-yet-unknown number of hotel guests. Not only was it an invasion of privacy but a blatant violation of their human rights.
G6 Hospitality LLC is the parent company of Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands in the United States and Canada. CEO Rob Palleschi leads an executive leadership team with no Latinos. G6 Hospitality has never participated in DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity competition.
The case was settled in July, but details were not made public until this week. The agreement, which still needs to be approved by a federal judge, calls for Motel 6 to pay money directly to affected guests and also to better manage guests’ secured information.
An anonymous employee at the hotel told the Phoenix New Times in fall 2017: “We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in … we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
In a questionable admission of guilt, Motel 6 acknowledged that guest lists were given to authorities but denied that senior management was aware of the practice. The company then said it gave a directive to employees to no longer shares guest lists with ICE.
Reporter Antonia Farzan, who helped break the story, also commented: “With all of these cases we looked at, the person didn’t have any outstanding warrant. There weren’t any complaints. There was no sign that they were violating other laws while they were staying at the motel.
“In other words, they weren’t bothering anybody. They had paid to rent a room. So it’s hard to see what problem it was causing for the motel to have them as a customer.”
Months later, other Motel 6 locations, specifically in Washington State, admitted to participating in the shady practice as well.
“The hotel turned over the guest list of everybody staying at the hotel. So thousands of individuals had their names turned over to ICE,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson told NPR in January.
“And according to our interviews with employees at Motel 6, ICE agents would circle the names that looked Latino-sounding and ran those names through a database and then would detain individuals based on those random checks.”
Lawsuits soon followed.
The lawsuit was filed by MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
MALDEF and Motel 6 issued a joint statement, which said in part:
“Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests.
“As part of the agreement, Motel 6 has implemented additional controls to protect private information and enhance corporate oversight in cases where law enforcement requests information, including when lawful requests are made.”
Motel 6 will pay $50 per guest and up to $1,000,000, if their information was given to authorities; $1,000 in damages and up to $1,000,000 to guests who were interrogated; and at least $7,500 per guest, up to $5,600,000 to those put in immigration-removal proceedings. The guests would have stayed at the location between Feb. 1, 2017, and Nov. 2, 2018.
How do you put a price on peace of mind though