September 14, 2017 17:51 GMT by nytimes.com

Motel 6 Workers Tipped Off Immigration Agency About Guests

Motel 6 Workers Tipped Off Immigration Agency About Guests

Guests at the chain’s Arizona hotels were detained and deported after employees informed the government about them. Rights groups assailed the practice.

ALBUQUERQUE — Employees at Motel 6 locations in Arizona regularly handed over to the government information that led to its hotel guests being detained and deported, the company has acknowledged.

The revelation of this practice in a report on Wednesday by the Phoenix New Times drew sharp rebukes from human rights groups and an array of calls to boycott Motel 6, one of the largest hotel chains in the country.

Referring to the sharing of customer information in Arizona with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, Raiza Rehkoff, a spokeswoman for G6 Hospitality, the Texas-based parent company of Motel 6, said in an email that “this was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.” G6 Hospitality is controlled by Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity firms.

Ms. Rehkoff said that senior executives became aware of the practice only in recent days, and when they did, they moved to end it. “We are currently investigating and will provide more information shortly,” she added.

Immigration lawyers representing people who were detained while they were staying at Motel 6 locations and were later deported from the United States said that they had collected evidence showing that the practice was widespread, and not limited to one state. Juan Rocha, an immigration lawyer in Arizona, said that an employee at a Motel 6 in Washington State told him of the same practice there.

“We’re looking at a situation where people with Hispanic surnames check into Motel 6, get their names reported to ICE, and a few hours later there are immigration agents knocking on the door to take them away,” Mr. Rocha said. “This is racial profiling that is tearing families apart.”

Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, a spokeswoman for ICE in Phoenix, declined to comment directly on the matter, saying in a statement that the organization does not usually disclose or discuss information related to the sources of its enforcement leads. She acknowledged that some leads come from private citizens, but said the agency does not pay any bounty or reward for such information.

One of the rights groups criticizing Motel 6 over the practice on Thursday was the American Civil Liberties Union. “What policies are you putting into place to ensure that your staff don’t guests to ICE in the future?” the A.C.L.U. said in a message on Twitter.

Ray Ybarra Maldonado, a Phoenix lawyer, said that he, too, had a client who was picked up while staying at Motel 6 and then deported.

“As a business strategy, this defies common sense regarding the treatment of an establishment’s paying guests,” Mr. Maldonado said. “Beyond that, this practice violates equal-protection guarantees. People have put two and two together to figure out how Motel 6 was illegally targeting its own customers.”

Read more at nytimes.com