Arizona Motel 6 Branches Start Handing Out ICE To Unsuspecting Customers
from the KNOCK-N-TALK-Room-Service™ dept
Motel 6 sure seems to love handing over guest info to law enforcement. A couple of years ago, a Rhode Island branch decided to start faxing its guest list to local police every night — something the PD had never asked it to do. This pleased the mayor, who proudly noted he knew everyone who was staying at the motel every night. Backlash followed and the police chief announced he would no longer accept Motel 6’s guest list faxes.
Two years later, Motel 6 branches in Arizona are doing pretty much the same thing. This time, however, the info appears to be going straight to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Free ICE in motel rooms never goes out of style. An undocumented motel guest detained under suspicious circumstances led to local journalists digging into public records.
A Phoenix New Times review of court records found that between February and August, ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at Motel 6s, showing up roughly every two weeks. (Since many of the documents we reviewed contained only vague details about where ICE encountered an individual, the actual number is likely even higher.)
All took place at one of two Motel 6 locations: 4130 North Black Canyon Highway or 1530 North 52nd Drive. Both are in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. New Times was unable to find records indicating that ICE conducted arrests at other local motels during this same time period.
So far, nothing all that conclusive. Some things can be inferred from the New Times’ investigation of public records, but there’s nothing specifically noting ICE agents are working from motel guest lists. However, nothing in the records indicates how ICE is locating these undocumented motel guests. The only thing stated in the documents is agents were “following up on tips.”
The New Times decided to go right to the source — motel employees — and got some very straightforward answers.
“We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” one front-desk clerk explained. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
[F]ront desk staff at multiple Motel 6 locations in the Valley said that they regularly share guest information with local police.
“I don’t know how it works, but if you check in and you have a warrant, you’re going to get picked up,” one young woman explained.
ICE has refused to comment on the veracity of these employees’ claims, saying doing so would compromise investigative techniques. However, if this is what’s happening, it’s neither “investigative” nor much of a “technique.” It’s just someone running a list against DHS/ICE databases and hoping for a hit. The motel is doing all the legwork, and there’s precious little of that being done.
Even if you consider the employees’ statements to be unreliable hearsay, there’s the corporate response to the New Times story, which makes it explicitly clear sending guest lists to ICE was exactly what was happening:
Regarding your media story on the Phoenix-area location, this was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued. We are currently further investigating and will provide more information shortly.
This is better but far from completely comforting. ICE can’t demand any motel hand over guest lists in perpetuity, but there’s nothing in the law (or even on-point Supreme Court decisions) that forbids agents from popping in and checking out lists in person. The same goes for local law enforcement, which may take its own look-see and pass that on to the feds if anything catches their eye. Motel 6’s corporate rollback of an extremely localized unofficial policy may return a little privacy to its guests, but the law and the courts see very little that’s protected in information turned over to third parties.