On Wednesday, the Phoenix New Times published a report alleging that employees of the budget chain Motel 6 were reporting undocumented guests to immigration officials in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the report, officials from Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) made at least 20 arrests at two Phoenix-area locations between February and August this year. After the story broke, Motel 6 released a statement on its Facebook page that confirmed the practice was happening on the "local level" and that senior officials had not known about it until recently. It read:
This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.
The post did not mention ICE by name, nor did it comment on reports of arrests, but simply referenced "recent media reports on Phoenix-area location." Following its statement, The Washington Post reported that the two Phoenix-area locations in question are located in predominantly Latinx neighborhoods, and that they are both corporate-owned — neither location is a franchise. The Phoenix New Times provided the following addresses for the two locations: 4130 North Black Canyon Highway and 1530 North 52nd Drive.
Unnamed employees at the two Phoenix-area locations reportedly told the Phoenix New Times that it was standard practice for them to provide guest information to ICE. “We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” a front-desk clerk reportedly 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.”
Jonathan Howard, a spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department, told the New Times that “on occasion and through informal contacts, various hotels and motels have shared their guest lists with officers,” but he did not confirm whether or not the two Motel 6 locations in question had participated in this practice.
The ACLU has called out Motel 6 in the past for its cooperation with law enforcement. Back in 2015, for example, the ACLU urged the Motel 6 location in Warwick, Rhode Island, to stop passing on its guest list to police officers. The ACLU's statements came after 75 people were arrested at the chain's Warwick location in the course of a year.
The news that Motel 6 employees in the Phoenix area were reportedly providing guest lists to ICE — thereby putting undocumented people at even greater risk — prompted concerns that other hotels, motels, and lodging facilities around the country might be pursuing similar practices. Moreover, the New Times' review of arrest records suggest that racial profiling could allegedly be at play. In its statement following allegations that Motel 6 employees were supposedly sending guest lists to ICE, however, Motel 6 stated, "When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued."
Back in June, 33-year-old Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez was staying at one of the Motel 6 branches in Phoenix when three ICE agents came calling. They asked him if he was legally authorized to be in the United States and he said that he was not, so he is currently being held in an immigrant detention center, the New Times reported. Juan Rocha, his lawyer, is trying to get him asylum. Rocha told the New Times that ICE reportedly knew which room his client had been staying in; that made him suspicious:
I’m thinking to myself, how would they know that? The client said he gave them a Mexican ID card — but there’s people who visit the U.S. all the time who have Mexican IDs. How does that establish that you’re here without authorization? I’m assuming it was a Motel 6 person — I don’t know who else would have told them — thinking, "Hey, this guy doesn’t speak English, he has a Mexican ID card, I’m going to call ICE."
However, Robert McWhirter — an attorney based in Phoenix — suggested to the New Times that the concern here is not necessarily racial profiling, but instead that corroboration of Motel 6 guest lists to Homeland Security databases.
It is still not clear which explanation is more accurate, but Phoenix-area Motel 6 employees' cooperation with ICE has triggered significant backlash all over the country, with increasing calls to boycott the budget chain. After Motel 6 released its statement on social media, the New Times released an update indicating that there were still questions left unanswered, namely: What was the old policy on communicating with ICE, what parts of it were discontinued, and are ICE agents permitted to surveil the motel?
The New Times is currently accepting tips and new information on the subject, and will reportedly maintain a close watch over ICE's activity in the area.