Motel 6 faces another suit alleging it helped ICE target Latino guests

Posted on: January 24th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) —  Motel 6 is facing a new federal lawsuit over allegations that the hotel chain’s employees regularly turned over guest information to immigration agents who scanned the lists and targeted people for detention.

This is the second such lawsuit against the budget hotel chain this month, the first being filed by the Washington state Attorney General’s Office making similar allegations.

The latest suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Arizona as a class-action complaint by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on behalf of unidentified Latino guests, calls the practice “racially discriminatory, unconstitutional, and violates laws that protect privacy rights and the rights of consumers.”

The defendants are listed in the suit as Motel 6 Operating, L.P., a limited partnership that owns and manages Motel 6 hotels throughout the United States; G6 Hospitality LLC, which also owns and manages Motel 6 hotels throughout the United States; and “Defendants Does 1-10,” described as “unidentified employees who work or worked at the Motel 6 Phoenix West and Motel 6 Black Canyon locations and who disclosed the personal information of motel guests to DHS [U.S. Department of Homeland Security] and ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents.”

The employees did so, according to the suit, “without requiring a warrant or reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

The suit alleges that eight Latinos were targeted at different Motel 6 locations in Arizona. The plaintiffs, who are not named in the suit, were awakened by banging on their hotel doors or followed out of their cars in the hotel parking lots, according to the document.

Seven of the eight were arrested, several faced bonds of thousands of dollars and one person was detained for 30 days, the suit says.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, told ABC News the “suffering of entire families who simply sought to use the services of Motel 6” makes the case stand out.

“Discrimination by motels and hotels was a central part of the struggle of African-Americans to root out Jim Crow in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s,” Saenz said. “It is shocking that, nearly 20 years into the 21st century, a motel would discriminate against and victimize its guests in this way.”

The plaintiffs suffered economic damages as well as “emotional distress, depression, anxiety, mental suffering, loss of liberty, fear, and humiliation,” the suit states. The suit is seeking a declaration that the practice of handing over guest information to agents for the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a violation of federal law, as well as monetary damages and any other relief the court deems necessary.

“I think that unless Motel 6 rapidly resolves these issues, it will face severe consequences with the Latino community,” Saenz said in his statement to ABC News. “Boycott calls, litigation, and public condemnation will continue and increase until Motel 6 demonstrates a real commitment to serving and helping the Latino immigrant community that patronizes so many of its Motel 6 locations.”

G6 Hospitality did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment. Earlier this month, after the news of the attorney general’s suit in Washington, a company spokesman told The Washington Post that Motel 6 takes “this matter very seriously, and we have and will continue to fully cooperate” with the investigation.

That suit, also filed in Arizona federal court, alleged that agents scanned the lists for guests with “Latino-sounding names.”

ICE is not named as a defendant in the class-action suit, just as it is not included in the Washington state suit. The agency, operating under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, told ABC News Wednesday it “is not party to the litigation and as such, will not comment any further regarding the lawsuit.”

But spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said in a statement, “It’s worth noting that hotels and motels have frequently been exploited by criminal organizations engaged in highly dangerous illegal enterprises, including human trafficking and human smuggling.”

ICE gave the same reason earlier this month for not publicly discussing the Washington state suit, though also declining to comment on “the source of its enforcement leads.”

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