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Motel 6 agrees to pay up to $7.6 million to settle claim it helped ICE target Latino guests

A lawsuit filed Jan. 3 by Washington's attorney general says the hotel chain Motel 6 routinely gave guest lists with personal information to ICE agents. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: Elaine Thompson/The Washington Post)
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After a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Motel 6, the chain agreed to pay as much as $7.6 million to guests who said their private information was given to U.S. immigration agents, according to court records.

Former guests sued Motel 6 over privacy violations earlier this year, alleging that the chain handed over their personal information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit came after a 2017 Phoenix New Times report that ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at two Motel 6 locations in Arizona.

Under the proposed settlement agreement, the hotel also agreed not to share guests' personal information without a warrant or subpoena, unless necessary to prevent “a significant crime,” according to the document.

“It’s very important in our minds that Motel 6 is putting in place policies and procedures that would prevent this from happening again,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), told The Washington Post on Tuesday. MALDEF represented the guests in the class-action lawsuit.

Motel 6 gave guest lists to ICE agents looking for 'Latino-sounding' names, lawsuit alleges

Motel 6 and MALDEF said in a joint statement that the hotel has prohibited employees from sharing such information.

“Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests,” it said. The hotel chain did not, however, admit to any wrongdoing.

ICE did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

MALDEF filed the lawsuit in January on behalf of seven class representatives from Arizona and one from Washington state. It alleged that employees at Motel 6 locations in Arizona gave Hispanic guests' personal information, such as their Mexican passports and other forms of identification, to agents from the Department of Homeland Security and ICE without warrants being served.

The lawsuit states that guests were then interrogated and arrested.

The lawsuit was filed after a report in Phoenix News Times by Antonia Noori Farzan showed that from February to August 2017, ICE agents arrested a Motel 6 guest about every two weeks in Arizona. (Farzan is now a reporter at The Washington Post.)

The proposed settlement states that Motel 6 will pay up to $5.6 million (at least $7,500 per guest) to those who were placed in immigration-removal proceedings; up to $1 million (at least $1,000 per guest) to those who were interrogated; and up to $1 million (at least $50 per guest) to those whose personal information was given to federal authorities.

Furthermore, Motel 6 will cover the cost of the former guests' legal fees.

The settlement agreement must still be approved by the district court.

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Motel 6 says employees will be prohibited from sharing guest lists with ICE