Motel 6 employees put the light on some guests
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.”
Immigration agents arrested at least 20 at two Motel 6 locations between February and August, a report stated.