By Martha Bellisle / Associated Press
SEATTLE — The national chain Motel 6 agreed Thursday to pay $12 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Washington state claiming names of hotel guests were improperly provided to immigration officials for two years, the state attorney general said.
The information led to targeted investigations by U.S. immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who went after people with Latino-sounding names, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said.
Some guests staying at seven Motel 6 locations in the state were detained or deported, he said. Those sites were in north Everett, south Everett, Bellingham, South Seattle, Tacoma and two in SeaTac.
“Motel 6’s actions tore families apart and violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Our resolution holds Motel 6 accountable for illegally handing over guests’ private information without a warrant.”
The company has also implemented controls to ensure corporate oversight and compliance in cases where law enforcement requests are made.
“The safety and security of our guests, which includes protecting guest information, is our top priority, and we are pleased to be able to reach resolution in this matter,” the company said.
Under terms of the settlement agreement, people who stayed at one of the seven locations between June 17, 2015, and May 14, 2017, could be eligible for restitution. Those guests could number as many as 80,000, Ferguson said. Roughly a quarter stayed at one of the chain’s two locations in Everett, according to the attorney general’s office.
Ferguson filed the lawsuit in King County Superior Court last year, claiming the company’s disclosures violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act and a law against discrimination.
At a Motel 6 in Everett, agents visited early in the morning or late at night and received a daily list of all guests staying at the location, Ferguson said when he filed the suit. The agents would target guests with Latino-sounding names and figure out if any were wanted in connection with civil immigration issues, he alleged in the lawsuit.
In one instance, a Seattle man who stayed at a Motel 6 near SeaTac was stopped in a parking lot by ICE agents as he wrapped Christmas presents for his four children. He was detained and deported several days later, Ferguson said.
The man was the sole provider for his family and his wife has struggled to support the children, he said.
In another case, a Vancouver father who had lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years was detained after staying at a Motel 6 on a trip to pick up supplies for his grocery business, Ferguson said. He also was deported, leaving behind his wife and six children.
Terms of the settlement apply to all Motel 6 locations nationwide. The company also agreed to provide training to employees to protect guest privacy, Ferguson said.
The company must also create an online tool for guests to report incidences where they believe the hotel chain has shared guest information.
In a separate lawsuit filed in Arizona, the company agreed in November to pay up to $7.6 million to Latino guests who said hotel employees shared private information with immigration officials.
Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed.