The Attorney General of Washington State Bob Ferguson held a news conference Wednesday announcing a lawsuit against Motel 6. Ferguson claimed during the conference in Seattle that Motel 6 disclosed the personal information of thousands of guests to federal authorities in violation of state law.
The hotel chain called Motel 6 was providing guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents since 2015. The lists handed over to the ICE by Motel 6 resulted in the arrest of at least six individuals in Washington state according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims Motel 6 violated state privacy and discrimination laws by handing over 9,000 guests with "Latino-sounding names" to ICE agents.
The lawsuit against Motel 6, which was acquired by Blackstone Group in 2012, recently faced similar allegations four months ago when the parent company G6 hospitality dismissed similar allegations in Arizona as a "local level" practice which they say was conducted "without the knowledge of senior management."
Ferguson basically says this is not true since a common "lawful enforcement acknowledgment form" is used multiple locations which he says indicates the practice is centrally coordinated. G6 Hospitality claims they directed its hotels to stop the practice of handing over the information.
A spokesman for G6 Hospitality named Raiza Rehkoff said, "In September, Motel 6 issued a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations, making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to ICE. Motel 6 takes this matter very seriously, and we have and will continue to fully cooperate."
Ferguson is known for fighting against Trump's policies which takes a tough stance on immigration and insists on following the law when it comes to entering the country illegally. He alleges Motel 6 trained new employees on sharing names with ICE even when no warrant was issued.
Whether you believe that the people on the list deserved to be turned over to ICE or not, there is a serious privacy concern here that is a step in the direction of a very slippery slope. The situation is reminiscent on a smaller scale of the NSA collecting cell phone metadata of American citizens without any search warrant.
On the other hand, it is not illegal for someone to report a person's information to authorities when they are suspected of committing a crime but it will be difficult for Motel 6 to prove that they had reasonable suspicions for every guest they handed over.
It is likely we see a settlement reached before the case goes to trial but even so, it is certainly not a clear issue that will need to be debated at length.
The case is Washington v. Motel 6 Operating, 18-2-00283, King County Superior Court, Washington state (Seattle).
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