Seattle, WA – The Washington state attorney general was on the warpath after learning that Motel 6 had been providing its guest lists to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Bob Ferguson, Attorney General for the state of Washington, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Motel 6, alleging the national motel chain violated consumer protection and discrimination laws when it provided guest lists to ICE.
The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court on Jan. 3, alleged that Motel 6 committed thousands of violations of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and hundreds of violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD).
Motel 6 has admitted that at least six of its Washington state locations shared guest information with ICE, which led to the detention of at least six individuals, according to a press release from the Washington Attorney General’s Office.
Ferguson said his office's investigation found at least four other locations in Bellingham, South Seattle, SeaTac, and South Tacoma that followed the same practice.
“According to Motel 6 staff, the ICE agents circled any Latino or Latino-sounding names on the guest registry and returned to their vehicles presuming to run these names through a database,” Ferguson said at a press conference.
The other two Washington locations, Bellingham and SeaTac, admitted that they had shared guest information with ICE, but had not yet provided the number of guests affected, Ferguson said.
He said he expected the number of affected guests to increase dramatically when Motel 6 was forced to reveal more information to the court.
In the lawsuit, Ferguson argued that each time Motel 6 disclosed a guest’s name and information should qualify as a separate violation of the CPA. He asked for civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.
Ferguson’s lawsuit claimed that Motel 6 broke the law every time it voluntarily released an individual’s private information to ICE.
In the press release, Ferguson said they voluntarily provided guest lists to ICE agents on a routine basis for at least two years.
The Attorney General’s Office began to investigate Motel 6 locations throughout the state of Washington in September of 2017, after the Phoenix New Times reported that ICE agents had made at least 20 arrests at Arizona Motel 6s between February and August of 2017.
Motel 6 released a statement after the Arizona revelation that said the practice of providing information to ICE was implemented at the local level, and said corporate had no knowledge of it.
However, all six Motel 6 Washington locations found to be giving guest information to ICE were corporate-owned motels, Ferguson said.
"Motel 6’s actions are disturbing, and they are unlawful,” he said.
The attorney general's investigation found that Motel 6 locations provided a form for ICE visits, referred to as a law enforcement acknowledgement form, which agents signed when they received the day’s guest list.
New employees were trained to give the guest registry, and all the names of their guests, to ICE, without requiring the agent to produce a warrant, according to the press release.
The Attorney General cited a Washington state Supreme Court case, State v. Jorden, which ruled that guest registry information is private and that random searches of this information violates rights to privacy found in the Washington state constitution, which is much more restrictive on the government than 4th Amendment protections.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It's not clear if AG Ferguson is attempting to hold a private entity responsible for constitutional violations, or if he's trying to hold federal authorities accountable to violating state case law. Either way, the case law appears to be largely irrelevant to this case.