To settle a nationwide class-action lawsuit against Motel 6, the chain has agreed to pay as much as $7.6 million to guests who said it gave their private information to U.S. immigration agents, according to court records.
Former guests sued Motel 6 over privacy violations this year, alleging that the chain handed over their personal information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. 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."
"It's very important in our minds that Motel 6 is putting in place policies and procedures that would prevent this from happening again," said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The group represented the guests in the class-action lawsuit.
Motel 6 and the Mexican American legal fund 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 to a request for comment.
The Mexican American legal fund 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 Latino 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.
Guests were then interrogated and arrested, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit was filed after a report in Phoenix New 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.
It also says Motel 6 will cover the cost of the former guests' legal fees.
The settlement agreement still needs approval from the district court.
Washington state sued Motel 6 in January, with the state’s attorney general saying the names of "many thousands" of Washington residents and visitors staying at the chain had been turned over to the federal government "without their knowledge, without their consent." That lawsuit is still pending.