Mo­tel 6 em­ploy­ees put the light on some guests

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NEWS - By Sa­man­tha Sch­midt

The Mo­tel 6 bud­get lodg­ing chain is associated with its long­time slo­gan of wel­com­ing hospitality: “We’ll leave the light on.”

But for im­mi­gra­tion at­tor­neys in the Phoenix area, the mo­tel chain has become the site of a trou­bling string of im­mi­gra­tion ar­rests.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Phoenix New Times, em­ploy­ees at two Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions may have been send­ing guest in­for­ma­tion to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

Af­ter the story was pub­lished, Mo­tel 6 re­leased a state­ment last week say­ing the prac­tice was “im­ple­mented at the lo­cal level with­out the knowl­edge of se­nior man­age­ment.”

“When we be­came aware of it last week, it was dis­con­tin­ued,” Mo­tel 6 wrote in the state­ment.

Fol­low­ing crit­i­cism of its vague ini­tial state­ment, Mo­tel 6 said it would be is­su­ing a di­rec­tive to each of its more than 1,400 lo­ca­tions na­tion­wide, “mak­ing clear that they are pro­hib­ited from vol­un­tar­ily pro­vid­ing daily guest lists to ICE.”

The chain apol­o­gized for the in­ci­dent and said it would be un­der­tak­ing a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of its cur­rent prac­tices.

Im­mi­gra­tion agents ar­rested at least 20 peo­ple at two Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Au­gust, drop­ping by about ev­ery two weeks, the New Times has re­ported. The num­ber is likely to be even higher, the pub­li­ca­tion re­ported, be­cause sev­eral court doc­u­ments con­tained am­bigu­ous in­for­ma­tion about ar­rest lo­ca­tions.

The two Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions are in pre­dom­i­nantly Latino neigh­bor­hoods, not far from Mex­i­can bak­eries and restau­rants. Both lo­ca­tions are cor­po­rate-owned — nei­ther are fran­chises.

Phoenix Po­lice depart­ment spokesman Jonathan Howard con­firmed to the New Times that “on oc­ca­sion and through in­for­mal con­tacts,” a num­ber of ho­tels and mo­tels have shared guest lists with law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

A spokes­woman for ICE’s Phoenix divi­sion told the New Times that she was un­able to con­firm whether the agency rou­tinely reviews ho­tel guest lists or in­ves­ti­gates tips from Mo­tel 6 em­ploy­ees.

“Those are in­ves­tiga­tive tech­niques that we wouldn’t be able to talk about,” she said.

But she added, “If hy­po­thet­i­cally we were some­where — if we did ad­min­is­tra­tively ar­rest some folks — that hap­pens all the time. We con­duct tar­geted en­force­ment oper­a­tions ev­ery day.”

Em­ploy­ees at the two re­spec­tive Phoenix lo­ca­tions told the New Times that re­port­ing guest lists to ICE was stan­dard prac­tice.

“We send a re­port ev­ery morn­ing to ICE — all the names of ev­ery­body that comes in,” one front-desk clerk told the New Times. “Ev­ery morn­ing at about 5 o’clock, we do the au­dit and we push a but­ton and it sends it to ICE.”

The rev­e­la­tions in the New Times ar­ti­cle prompted ire from im­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates across so­cial me­dia, and praise from some sup­port­ers of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion crack­down.

It also stirred a de­bate over pri­vacy con­cerns, and left many won­der­ing: If some Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions are tip­ping off ICE, could other mo­tels or lodges na­tion­wide be fol­low­ing suit?

Oth­ers sug­gested the re­port could in­di­cate racial pro­fil­ing on be­half of mo­tel em­ploy­ees who re­port cer­tain guests to ICE.

This is not the first time Mo­tel 6 has come un­der scru­tiny for pro­vid­ing po­lice with guest lists. In Rhode Island in 2015, po­lice im­ple­mented new pro­to­col in which the ho­tel agreed to fax them a daily guest list, for au­thor­i­ties to check it for known crim­i­nals or sus­pects. The agree­ment came af­ter a string of high-pro­file po­lice calls to the ho­tel, ac­cord­ing to the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal.

Tom Bodett has been the brand spokesman for the Mo­tel 6 chain for over 25 years, ac­cord­ing to his web­site. He is the voice be­hind the slo­gan, “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

Bodett on Thurs­day tweeted: “I’m alarmed by the news in Phoenix. Be­hav­ior de­scribed is not in line w/my or com­pany val­ues.”

ANITA SNOW/AP

Im­mi­gra­tion agents ar­rested at least 20 at two Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Au­gust, a re­port stated.

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