'Leave the light on â" for ICE': Motel 6 employees reported guests to immigration officials
September 14 at 4:51 AM
A Motel 6 in Hammond, Ind., pictured in October 2014. (John J. Watkins/Northwest Indiana Times via AP)
The Motel 6 budget lodging chain is commonly associated with its longtime slogan of welcoming hospitality: âWeâll leave the light on.â
But for immigration attorneys in the Phoenix area, the motel chain has become the site of a troubling string of immigration arrests. And according to a report published Wednesday by the Phoenix New Times, employees at two Motel 6 locations may have been sending guest information directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
After the story published, Motel 6 released a statement saying th e practice was âimplemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.â
âWhen we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued,â Motel 6 wrote in the statement posted on Twitter and Facebook.
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 reported. The actual 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 â" neither are franchises.
Phoenix Police department spokesman Jonathan Howard confirmed to the New Times that âon occasion and through informal contacts,â a number of hotels and motels have shared guest lists with law enforcement officers.
A spokeswoman for IC Eâs 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. âThose are investigative techniques that we wouldnât be able to talk about,â she said.
But, she added: âIf hypothetically we were somewhere â" if we did administratively arrest some folks â" that happens all the time. We conduct targeted enforcement operations every day.â
Employees at the two respective Phoenix locations told the New Times that reporting guest lists to ICE was standard practice.
âWe send a report every morning to ICE â" all the names of everybody that comes in,â one front-desk clerk told the New Times. âEvery morning at about 5 oâclock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.âThe White House has said they are focused on deporting undocumented immigrants who "pose a threat to this country," but advocates say undocu mented immigrants without criminal records are being detained by ICE. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
In about a third of the arrest records reviewed by the New Times, ICE agents entered the motel without a search warrant, in what the newspaper described as a âknock and talk.â Officers simply knocked on the motel room door and asked to go inside.
In one instance, immigration officials arrested Mexican native Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez, 33, six hours after he checked into a Motel 6. When he had reserved the room, Rodriguez-Juarez had shown the front-desk clerk his only form of identification, his Mexican voter ID card.
Arrest records did not indicate how ICE had nabbed him, only that officers were âfollowing a lead.â Immigration officials had âreceived information that Rodriguez-Juarez was checked into room #214,â according to Department of Homeland Security records cited by the New Times.
Rodriguez-Juarezâs lawyer still wonders how officials found that âlead,â and whether someone at Motel 6 may have reported him. Rodriguez-Juarez is being held at an immigration detention center while his attorney pursues his asylum case.
The revelations in the New Times article prompted ire from immigration advocates across social media, and praise from some supporters of President Trumpâs 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.
On Twitter, many people condemned Motel 6, decrying the chainâs vague response and calling for a more detailed explanation. The hashtag #BoycottMotel6 began circulating Wednesday night.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona tweeted: âWill new policy reflect this âdiscountinedâ practice, @mo tel6? We look forward to reading it.â The national ACLU account also tweeted at Motel 6 asking for its company policy.
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, âWeâll leave the light on for you.â
On Wednesday, Bodett tweeted: âIf youâve been vexed by the situation with @motel6 in Phoenix. Here is the response from their HQ. I had faith this was the case.â Some of his followers called on him to condemn the chain.
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, including a prostitution arrest and a meth lab raid, according to the Providence J ournal.
At the time, the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU said it was troubled by the agreement between police and the motel, calling it âhardly the sort of âhospitalityâ one anticipates from such an establishment.â
âWhen visitors go to a hotel for the night, they expect to be treated like guests, not potential criminals,â the ACLU of Rhode Island wrote. âA family on vacation should not be fearful that police may come knocking on the door in the middle of the night, courtesy of the motel, because Dad has an outstanding parking ticket he never paid.â
Concerned about the legal ramifications of the protocol, the Warwick Police chief stopped the practice 16 days later, the Providence Journal reported.
The following month, in June 2015, the Supreme Court struck down a Los Angeles ordinance that allowed police to inspect hotel guest records on demand. The Los Angeles city attorneyâs office had argued police needed the authority to prevent mote ls from becoming havens for criminal activity.
But after a group of motel owners sued, the Supreme Court said the ordinance was unconstitutional because a hotel owner who refuses could get arrested. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said motel owners deserve the chance to go to a judge and object a search.
More from Morning Mix
Berkeley prepares for Ben Shapiro speech with pepper spray, concrete barriers and lots of police
Homeless man asked woman to move Porsche so he could sleep. Then she shot him, police say.Source: Google News