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Civil rights group sues Motel 6 for giving guest info to immigration authorities

Forget "leaving the light on," how about stop snitching? A Latino civil rights group is suing Motel 6 and its parent company for allegedly violating the rights of its guests in Arizona.
Image: A Motel 6 in Phoenix on Sept. 14, 2017
A Motel 6 in Phoenix on Sept. 14, 2017.Anita Snow / AP file

A Latino civil rights group is suing Motel 6 and its parent company for allegedly violating the rights of its guests in Arizona by disclosing personal information to U.S. immigration authorities, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that the hotel’s practice of giving Latino guests’ information to federal authorities without a warrant “violates federal and state civil rights laws barring discrimination based on national origin, and protections against unreasonable searches,” according to a statement from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

The suit, which also names hotel parent company G6 Hospitality LLC, was filed by MALDEF in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

The hotel company is accused of revealing the information — which included names and room numbers — to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at two Phoenix, Arizona, locations, according to MALDEF. The company also stands accused of violating state consumer fraud protections.

“It is in no company’s interests to target and to violate the rights of any of its customers,” Thomas Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel, said in the statement. “If business incentives prove insufficient to deter poor practices, there are also powerful legal consequences for engaging in the kind of anti-consumer activity alleged here.”

The organization is pursuing class-action status for the lawsuit.

The eight Latino plaintiffs in the lawsuit were detained last year after presenting official identification while checking into two Phoenix-area hotels, MALDEF said.

“This lawsuit should serve as a warning to companies that attempt to enforce immigration laws by conspiring with the federal government to violate the civil rights of their guests,” Andres Gallegos, an attorney at MALDEF, said in the statement. “Our clients now face being separated from their families simply because they rented a hotel room.”

Motel 6's corporate office said in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday that, “In September, Motel 6 issued a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations, making it clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guests lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)."

"While we cannot comment on specific pending litigation, we take this issue and the privacy of our guests very seriously," the statement said.

Earlier this month, the Washington state attorney general also sued Motel 6, alleging that the chain disclosed the private information of thousands of its guests to immigration authorities.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said motel employees had given out the names, birth dates, driver’s license numbers and room numbers of more than 9,000 guests to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents without a warrant, according to The Associated Press. At least six people were detained or near the motel property during a two-year period.

Ferguson’s office began investigation the hotel chain after reports that Motel 6 workers in Phoenix had been giving out guest information to immigration agents.

At the time, Motel 6 said in a statement posted to social media: "This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued."