Updated Thursday Sept. 14, 11:39 p.m. EDT: The Root received the following statement issued by the Motel 6 corporation:
“Over the past several days, it was brought to our attention that certain local Motel 6 properties in the Phoenix-area were voluntarily providing daily guest lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As previously stated, this was undertaken at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it, it was discontinued.
Moving forward, to help ensure that this does not occur again, we will be issuing a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations nationwide, making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.
Additionally, to help ensure that our broader engagement with law enforcement is done in a manner that is respectful of our guests’ rights, we will be undertaking a comprehensive review of our current practices and then issue updated, company-wide guidelines.
Protecting the privacy and security of our guests are core values of our company. Motel 6 apologizes for this incident and will continue to work to earn the trust and patronage of our millions of loyal guests.”
Two Phoenix Motel 6 locations in predominantly Latino neighborhoods are suspected of calling federal immigration officials on undocumented guests who checked in for short stays with them.
The Phoenix New Times conducted a review of court records and found that between February and August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made 20 arrests at the same two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix.
One such arrest was that of 33-year-old landscaper Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez, who got a room at one of the two Motel 6 locations in June. When the front-desk clerk asked for ID, Rodriguez-Juarez showed the only thing he had—a Mexican voter-ID card.
Six hours later, three agents from ICE came to the hotel room and took him into custody after authorities say he admitted that he was not authorized to be in the United States. He is now being held at an immigration detention center in Florence, Ariz., while his lawyer tries to get him asylum.
That lawyer, Juan Rocha, believes that someone at Motel 6 tipped off ICE.
According to the New Times, the statement of probable cause in Rodriguez-Juarez’s case indicates that ICE officers were “following a lead” when they arrested him. Department of Homeland Security records say that ICE’s Phoenix Mobile Criminal Alien Team Unit received information that gave the exact number of the room where Rodriguez-Juarez was staying.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘How would they know that?’” Rocha told the New Times. “The client said he gave them a Mexican ID card—but there’s people who visit the U.S. all the time who have Mexican IDs. How does that establish that you’re here without authorization?
“I’m assuming it was a Motel 6 person—I don’t know who else would have told them—thinking, ‘Hey, this guy doesn’t speak English, he has a Mexican ID card, I’m going to call ICE,’” Rocha added.
Although Motel 6 has not responded to direct inquiries about the arrests, employees at both locations told the New Times off the record that it is standard practice to send guest information to ICE.
“We send a report every morning to ICE—all the names of everybody that comes in,” one front-desk clerk told the New Times. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, a spokesperson for ICE’s Phoenix division, would not tell the New Times whether or not the agency is acting on tips sent in by Motel 6 employees.
“I wouldn’t be able to confirm how we are getting our information. Those are investigative techniques that we wouldn’t be able to talk about,” O’Keefe said. “If hypothetically we were somewhere—if we did administratively arrest some folks—that happens all the time. We conduct targeted enforcement operations every day.”
But Denise Aguilar, another Arizona lawyer, told the New Times that she has a client being held in ICE custody alongside several other people who were also detained at the same Motel 6.
In an email to the New Times, Aguilar said, “They have heard (no telling how valid the info is) that ICE is paying $200 per person for the front-desk clerk to report.”
Both of the Motel 6 locations are corporate-owned, so this isn’t the case of a local franchise owner taking people’s money and then calling the authorities. And as the New Times notes, the company has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for sharing guest lists with local police.
A 2015 Supreme Court decision made it so that a city cannot compel a hotel to turn over guest information without a warrant, so that means if front-desk staff are doing so in these cases, they are doing it voluntarily.
Late Wednesday, after the report from the Phoenix New Times broke, Motel 6 posted the following statement on its Twitter account: “This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.”
Read more at the Phoenix New Times.