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.

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Comments on “Arizona Motel 6 Branches Start Handing Out ICE To Unsuspecting Customers”

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39 Comments
Roger Strong (profile) says:

…something the PD had never asked it to do.

Consider how the U.S. Department of Justice decided to steal the Motel Caswell through through civil forfeiture, because someone who once stayed there committed a crime.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of Justice is in the process of confiscating the motel without any compensation, through civil forfeiture, because it was used in the commission of a crime. The local police with whom the Caswells actively cooperated for years are the ones who reported them to the federal agency. Why? Because, under a policy known as “equitable sharing,” the Tewksbury police department stands to gain as much as 80 percent of the value of the seized property.

That’s how you get other hotels to cooperate "without asking."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Motel 6 has made a statement

https://twitter.com/motel6/status/908453005296619521

Thanks for posting that link.

Last week, I first became aware of the Sep 13, 2017 Phoenix New Times story that’s linked in the article above (“Attorneys Suspect Motel 6 Calling ICE on Undocumented Guests”, by Antonia Noori Farzan and Joseph Flaherty).

Since then —the next day, in fact— on Sep 14, 2017, the Phoenix New Times published a followup, “After New Times Story, Motel 6 Says It Will Stop Sharing Guest Lists With ICE” (by Antonia Noori Farzan). This story is also linked in the article above. As I see that second Phoenix New Times story on the web today, it contains:

Update, 3:25 p.m.: Motel 6 has issued another statement in response…

While Cushing’s article quotes from the first Motel 6 statement, it does not appear to quote from the second Motel 6 statement contained in the “3:25 p.m.” (presumably last Thursday, Sep 14, 2017) update.

The Twitter link that you provided in your post looks like the same second Motel 6 statement at the head of the updated Sep 14, 2017 Phoenix New Times story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Motel 6 has made a statement

“3:25 p.m.” (presumably last Thursday, Sep 14, 2017) update

The Wayback Machine has a Sep 14, 2017 23:12:00 UTC capture which contains the “3:25 p.m.”update to the Phoenix New Times story with the second Motel 6 statement.

Earlier Wayback Machine captures (specifically 22:02:57 UTC) don’t have the update.

Phoenix, AZ, USA seems to be on Mountain Standard Time (MST), with no daylight savings. That’s 7 hours behind UTC, so “3:25 p.m.” is Thu, Sep 14, 2017 22:25:00 UTC.

Anonymous Coward says:

I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

First off, you are WRONG to blame corporate HQ then say was entirely local. Bad writing to pull back assertion.

2nd, corporate HQ is wrong too. Corporations are REQUIRED to help “law enforcement”. FOR PREVENTING this by “locals”, corporate execs should be charged with relevant law violations of helping illegals. I think there’s a case: by way of ending employment they’re threatening US citizens for NOT helping. That IS extortion.

3rd, is there ANY “undocumented” — that’s dog-whistle code as NYTimes and other pinkos use for ILLEGAL — immigration that Techdirt doesn’t want coming and staying unhindered into the US? Or is this just your usual general call for citizens not helping find wanted criminals?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

Setting aside your other wingnutty fallacies – included, no doubt, for consistency….

Corporations are REQUIRED to help "law enforcement".

Only in the case of specific crimes. That’s not the case here.

This was drift-net trawling to see what they could dredge up. Hopefully they’d catch a criminal they didn’t know about, while violating the privacy of many innocent people. No, corporations are NOT required to help with fishing expeditions. If anything, they’re required to NOT help with this sort of behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

No, corporations are NOT required to help with fishing expeditions. If anything, they’re required to NOT help with this sort of behavior.

In countries with privacy laws it would be true, but does the USA really have a law that applies? Apart from maybe the Video Privacy Protection Act for pay-tv records.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

OKAY, so you agree up to a point. While denying. Typical Techdirt.

Read mine again. If corporate used threat of firing to prevent employees from doing this on their own, then corporate is extorting them: preventing from actions otherwise legal. That’s big problem.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

OKAY, so you agree up to a point. While denying. Typical Techdirt.

Yeah; recognizing civil rights in addition to the need for law enforcement. Insane, right?

If corporate used threat of firing to prevent employees from doing this on their own, then corporate is extorting them: preventing from actions otherwise legal.

Nonsense. A corporation has an obligation – if not legal, then ethical and for its own long-term self-interest – to prevent employees from violating customers’ rights without valid reason.

A police investigation into a specific crime would be a valid reason. Drift-net trawling is not.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I agree: corporate shouldn't have stopped it!

If corporate used threat of firing to prevent employees from doing this on their own, then corporate is extorting them: preventing from actions otherwise legal. That’s big problem.

Do you mean that Motel 6 should have put into their employment contracts that employees are prohibited from distributing customer data on their own? Or do you think that such a prohibition should be invalid, and that employees should be able to do whatever they want with customer data as long as it doesn’t break any laws?

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Would it be OK to tweet your Drivers License too?

So, using your line of “reasoning” it would be fine for an employee at the hotel / motel you use to tweet your name and a copy of your Drivers License every time you check in?

Assuming the hotel chain doesn’t have a POLICY against sharing check in information (which they ABSOLUTELY should), how long do you think a hotel that allows that practice to stay open?
How many people would CHOOSE a hotel that cared that little about YOUR privacy? At the least, this would be a public relations nightmare….. Oh wait, that already happened.

Cowardly Lion says:

The Jackal

http://www.privacysurgeon.org/blog/incision/how-europes-hotels-became-spies-for-law-enfocement-agencies-and-the-nsa/

This has been the norm in Europe for decades. As this article says, this is despite strong EU data protection laws. This was how the French DCPJ caught The Jackal in Forsyth’s 1971 book – by reviewing the daily overnight hotel guest lists. [nb: yes I know it’s fiction, but Forsyth is a stickler for detail]

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: The Jackal

It is also completely normal in the States*. What isn’t is businesses regularly forwarding logs of everyone they have done business with on a given day.

*Except high-end outfits which like to protect the privacy of their wealthy clientele, because they deserve the privacy and right which others do not, apparently.

yankinwaoz (profile) says:

Totally legal man

This was stupid of Motel 6 to allow. But I fail to see that Motel 6 did anything illegal.

It is well known and established the companies in the US can do anything they want with the information they collect on you. There are some constraints, such as HIPAA. But if a company can make buck off of selling your details, then their isn’t very much that will prevent it.

I read the ICE was paying Motel 6, or at least these branches for the information. They didn’t pay much.

I first thought that this was rouge employees selling customer details out the back door to ICE for money. It doesn’t appear to be that at all. It sounds like the branch owner or managers approved.

If Motel 6 corporate contractually prohibited the selling of customer details by its franchises, then the owner of the franchise risks loosing their franchise, being fined, or somehow punished. This is between Motel 6 and the franchisee.

If Motel 6 didn’t prohibit this, then there is nothing contractually wrong.

It doesn’t sound like ICE demanded this information under the threat of law. And as noted, they could not compel the motel to surrender this information without a warrant. So ICE was smart and just asked them with a small bounty per arrest being paid in consideration.

I don’t think that Motel 6 is special in this regard. Common sense says that this policy would apply to any and all hotels that ICE might want to target. And I’m sure their success with cooperation varies. Cheap hotels take the money. Expensive hotels probably don’t think it is worth the downside.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Kick out 11 million people. Well I suppose you’d have to find them all first. Determine their legality, house them somewhere until transportation arrived and then what, commandeer every school bus and private plane in America? I don’t think you have thought your clever theme all the way through.

nothanksnotbuyingit says:

Re: Re: Re:

love this attitude.. Really.
One a crime was committed (by coming here without proper documentation/authority)
Two – most likely the employer – committed another crime by hiring them. Look it up it is a crime.
three – the liberals support this – are more or less (and this is hysterical) saying that these folks MUST be allowed to stay – they are doing jobs no one wants to do – so they are more or less condoning racial slavery (since they will most likely accept jobs – that supposedly no one wants to do, and will do it for far less money – under the table.
Four – this whole illegal activity supports other criminal activities – how many SSN’s have been stolen to help “support this bullshit”? Yeah I’ve heard it . illegals can’t apply for gov assistance. They can if they have falsified id’s

Stop the bullshit.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Re your “one”, there are at least two ways to be in the country illegally without having committed a crime: to come in legally and then overstay the visa, and to be brought in illegally against your will.

Re your “three”, would you rather the economies of the various relevant areas collapse, and the prices for the essential staples produced there go through the roof elsewhere? It may not be ideal, but it certainly seems like by far the least of the available evils.

Also re your “three”, what distinguishes this from slavery (let alone “racial slavery”) is that no one is forcing these people to come here and work these jobs for this pay; in fact, these people are choosing to come here in the face of systems set up to make it hard for them to do that, specifically because they think this is better than the alternatives.

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