A civil rights group alleges that Motel 6 discriminated against some Latino customers at two locations in Phoenix by giving their whereabouts and personal information to U.S. immigration agents who later arrested at least seven guests.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said Motel 6 had a corporate policy or practice of turning over information provided by guests when they registered for a room to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
It also alleges that Motel 6 provided the information without requiring authorities to get a warrant or without having a reasonable suspicion that crimes were being committed.
“We are seeking to deter any [law enforcement] operation of this sort,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the civil rights group.
Motel 6 didn't immediately respond to a phone call and email Tuesday seeking comment.
The national budget chain said in September that its Phoenix employees would no longer work with immigration authorities after the Phoenix New Times newspaper reported that its workers were providing guests' names to agents who later arrested 20 people on immigration charges.
In a tweet at the time, Motel 6 said: “This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.”
Then, this month, the Washington state attorney general sued the chain, saying it had violated a state consumer protection law by providing the private information of thousands of guests to immigration agents without a warrant.
The lawsuit alleged Motel 6 was aware that agents used the registration information to single out guests based on their national origin. Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson's office began investigating after news reports about the Phoenix case.
The chain said it had told its more than 1,400 locations that they were prohibited from voluntarily providing guest lists to immigration authorities.
The Phoenix lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of eight unnamed Latinos who stayed at two Motel 6 locations in the city in June and July. All but one of the eight were arrested.
Immigration agents visited some of the guests at their motel rooms a day after they showed Motel 6 employees passports, driver's licenses or identification cards issued by the Mexican government, according to the lawsuit.
As a result, one woman was deported from the United States, and a man spent 30 days in a detention center until he could raise a $7,500 bond. In two instances, immigration agents laughed when guests asked them whether Motel 6 had provided their personal information, the lawsuit said.
It said the eight guests had a reasonable expectation that their information would not be shared with federal authorities and alleged that discrimination was made because of their race or national origin.
The plaintiffs said they suffered emotional distress, fear and humiliation.
They are seeking undisclosed financial damages and are asking a judge to declare the information sharing a violation of anti-discrimination law and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not targeted in the lawsuit.