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Friday, December 6, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

Motel 6 agrees to pay $12 million to settle lawsuit

UPDATED: Thu., April 4, 2019

The Motel 6 chain has agreed in a proposed settlement to pay up to $7.6 million to guests who say the company’s employees shared their private information with immigration officials. (Anita Snow / AP)
The Motel 6 chain has agreed in a proposed settlement to pay up to $7.6 million to guests who say the company’s employees shared their private information with immigration officials. (Anita Snow / AP)
By Martha Bellisle Associated Press

SEATTLE – The national chain Motel 6 agreed Thursday to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Washington state claiming names of hotel guests were improperly provided to immigration officials for two years, the state attorney general said.

The information led to targeted investigations by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who went after people with Latino-sounding names, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.

Some people staying at seven Motel 6 locations in the state were detained or deported, he said.

“Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant.”

The bus carrier Greyhound has faced similar scrutiny for allowing U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to board its buses during stops at the Spokane Intermodal Center.

Greyhound also faces a lawsuit in California for immigration sweeps, though the company has said it can’t stop agents from boarding its vehicles because of a federal law that permits warrantless searches within 100 miles of the border.

Motel 6 told the Associated Press in an email that it will enforce its guest privacy policy, which prohibits the sharing of guest information except in cases where a judicially enforceable warrant or subpoena is present or local law requires release of the information.

The company has also implemented controls to ensure corporate oversight and compliance in cases where law enforcement requests are made.

“The safety and security of our guests, which includes protecting guest information, is our top priority, and we are pleased to be able to reach resolution in this matter,” the company said.

The agreement applies to all Motel 6 locations nationwide. The company also agreed to provide training to employees to protect guest privacy, Ferguson said.

In a separate lawsuit filed in Arizona, the company agreed in November to pay up to $7.6 million to Latino guests who said hotel employees shared private information with immigration officials.

In Washington state, Ferguson said Motel 6 gave ICE information on a daily basis about a total of 80,000 guests without a warrant between 2015 and 2017.

In one case, a Seattle man who stayed at a Motel 6 near SeaTac was stopped in a parking lot by ICE agents as he wrapped Christmas presents for his four children. He was detained and deported several days later, Ferguson said.

The man was the sole provider for his family and his wife has struggled to support the children, he said.

In another case, a Vancouver, Washington, father who had lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years was detained after staying at a Motel 6 on a trip to pick up supplies for his grocery business, Ferguson said. He also was deported, leaving behind his wife and six children.

Ferguson filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court last year, claiming the company’s disclosures violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and a law against discrimination.

The company must also create an online tool for guests to report incidences where they believe the hotel chain has shared guest information.

Spokesman-Review reporter Chad Sokol contributed to this report.

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