Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has sued Motel 6, charging the company with sharing its guest lists with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He says the company violated privacy rights and discriminated against thousands of Washingtonians.
The motel company voluntarily gave the guest lists to ICE on a routine basis for at least two years, according to Ferguson. Each time Motel 6 released a guest list, it included the name and private information of every guest at the hotel, the lawsuit says.
Personal information released included customers’ driver’s license numbers, room numbers, names, guest identification numbers, dates of birth and license plate numbers, according to the lawsuit.
“After news reports in Arizona revealed Motel 6 staff was handing over guests’ private information, Motel 6 implied this was a local problem,” Ferguson said. “We have found that is not true. Washingtonians have a right to privacy, and protection from discrimination. I will hold Motel 6 accountable and uncover the whole story of their disturbing conduct.”
The Attorney General's Office began investigating the motel chain's Washington locations in September and alleges that the incidents in Arizona were not isolated.
According to Ferguson, Motel 6 officials admit that at least six of the company's Washington state locations -- in Bellingham, North Everett, South Everett, South Seattle, SeaTac and South Tacoma -- shared personal information of its guests with ICE; this led to the detention of at least six people.
Ferguson asserts that Motel 6 knew that ICE used the guest lists to target customers based on national origin, including customers with Latino-sounding names. His office says the company trained new employees on the process to give the guest registry and all the names of their guests to ICE.
"At the South Everett location, for example, ICE agents visited the motels early in the morning or late at night, requested the day’s guest list, circled any Latino-sounding names and returned to their vehicles," a news release on Ferguson's investigation said. "On at least one occasion, ICE later returned to the motel and detained at least one individual. The Attorney General’s investigators discovered that from Feb. 1 to Sept. 14, 2017, the South Everett location gave guests’ private, personal information to ICE on approximately 228 occasions in a 225-day period."
The lawsuit filed on Wednesday claims that Motel 6 committed thousands of violations of the Consumer Protection Act and hundreds of violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
A Washington state Supreme Court case established that guest registry information is private and that random searches of this information violate rights to privacy found in the Washington Constitution.
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In that case, State v. Jorden, the court said, "Information contained in a motel registry constitutes a private affair under article 1, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution because it reveals sensitive, discrete, and private information about the motel's guest."
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