Mo­tel 6: Em­ploy­ees won’t call im­mi­gra­tion on guests

The Maui News - - NEWS - By ANITA SNOW The As­so­ci­ated Press

PHOENIX — Mo­tel 6 says its em­ploy­ees in Phoenix will no longer work with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents fol­low­ing news re­ports that its work­ers were re­port­ing on guests they be­lieved were in the United States il­le­gally.

In a tweet about re­ports first pub­lished in the Phoenix New Times, Mo­tel 6 said Wed­nes­day: “This was im­ple­mented at the lo­cal level with­out the knowl­edge of se­nior man­age­ment. When we be­came aware of it last week, it was dis­con­tin­ued.”

Em­ploy­ees at one Mo­tel 6 near a stretch of other bud­get mo­tels, dis­count stores and fast-food restau­rants re­fused to an­swer ques­tions Thurs­day and re­ferred all queries to cor­po­rate head­quar­ters.

The news that Mo­tel 6 work­ers in Phoenix were tip­ping off ICE agents im­me­di­ately thrust the chain into the na­tional im­mi­gra­tion de­bate, with some de­trac­tors com­plain­ing about its vague and tepid state­ment.

So­cial me­dia ex­ploded with crit­i­cism and satire aimed at the bud­get mo­tel chain, with some play­ing off its slo­gan “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

“They’ll leave the light on — for ICE and po­lice,” Ce­cilia Wang, na­tional deputy di­rec­tor for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, said in a tweet.

The ACLU of Ari­zona tweeted separately: “Will new pol­icy re­flect this ‘dis­coun­tined’ prac­tice, @mo­tel6? We look for­ward to read­ing it.”

The hash­tag #Boy­cottMo­tel6 be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing while Latino po­lit­i­cal car­toon­ist Lalo Al­caraz drew and posted on so­cial me­dia a sketch of a Mo­tel 6 with a sign read­ing: “Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Camp.”

Long­time Mo­tel 6 pitch­man Tom Bodett sent a tweet sup­port­ing the chain, say­ing: “If you’ve been vexed by the sit­u­a­tion with @mo­tel6 in Phoenix. Here is the re­sponse from their HQ. I had faith this was the case” and in­cluded the chain’s state­ment. Some of Bodett’s fol­low­ers crit­i­cized him and called on him to slam the chain.

It’s not the first time the chain has come un­der fire for pro­vid­ing guest lists to author­i­ties.

A Mo­tel 6 with a high crime rate in War­wick, R.I., gave daily guest lists to po­lice for sev­eral weeks in 2015 be­fore the pro­gram was dis­con­tin­ued. Of­fi­cers checked the names for out­stand­ing war­rants in an ef­fort to curb crime at the mo­tel.

The War­wick po­lice chief said at the time that the in­for­ma­tion gath­ered ul­ti­mately was not worth the pub­lic scru­tiny.

The weekly Phoenix New Times re­ported Wed­nes­day that ICE had ar­rested at least 20 peo­ple at two Mo­tel 6 lo­ca­tions in heav­ily His­panic ar­eas of Phoenix, and quoted work­ers as say­ing they gave guest lists to agents. An ICE spokes­woman in Phoenix de­clined to con­firm or deny that.

“Due to op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity, U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE) does not typ­i­cally dis­close or dis­cuss spe­cific in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the source of its en­force­ment leads,” said Yas­meen Pitts O’Keefe, spokes­woman for the agency’s lo­cal of­fice.

Among those ar­rested by ICE in June at one of the Phoenix ho­tels was Jose Ed­uardo Ren­te­ria Galaviz, who was in court Thurs­day to be sen­tenced for re-en­ter­ing the United States af­ter hav­ing been de­ported.

His at­tor­ney, Robert McWhirter, said it is le­gal for ho­tels to pro­vide ICE agents with in­for­ma­tion about guests if they want to. But, he said, a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing pro­hibits author­i­ties from forc­ing a ho­tel op­er­a­tor to re­lin­quish a guest reg­is­ter with­out a war­rant.

He said that Mo­tel 6’s state­ment showed that mem­bers of the chain’s na­tional man­age­ment were prob­a­bly un­aware of what was hap­pen­ing in Phoenix and were con­cerned about the ef­fect the pol­icy could have on busi­ness.

McWhirter said that the cur­rent flap said a lot about lo­cal at­ti­tudes to­ward im­mi­grants.

For­mer Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Ar­paio gained na­tional at­ten­tion for his ag­gres- sive poli­cies to­ward im­mi­grants who are in the United States il­le­gally, and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s get-tough at­ti­tude to­ward il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion has been em­braced by many in the Phoenix area.

“There’s an at­ti­tude here where peo­ple think they can do this stuff and get away with it,” said McWhirter. “And peo­ple like Joe Ar­paio and Don­ald Trump en­cour­age those views.”

AP photo

A Mo­tel 6 is seen in Phoenix on Thurs­day. Mo­tel 6 says its em­ploy­ees in Phoenix will no longer work with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agents fol­low­ing news re­ports that its work­ers were re­port­ing on guests they be­lieved were in the United States il­le­gally.

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