By ANITA SNOW, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — The national budget chain Motel 6 has agreed to pay up to $7.6 million to Latino guests who say the company’s employees shared their private information with immigration officials, according to a proposed settlement filed in federal court.
A federal judge must still approve the proposal filed last week in U.S. District Court in Arizona.
The agreement between Motel 6, which is owned by G6 Hospitality LLC in Carrollton, Texas, and guests represented by the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, springs from a class-action lawsuit filed in January.
A joint statement released Wednesday by the lodging company and the civil rights group said that when news of the information-sharing practice emerged in September 2017, Motel 6 “launched an investigation and issued a clear directive to all locations nationwide, emphasizing that the practice is prohibited.
“Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests,” said the statement provided by Maggie Giddens, G6 Hospitality’s managing director of external relations.
Fund president and general counsel Thomas A. Saenz said Wednesday the agreement launches a long process allowing potential class action members to have a say in the case.
Under the proposal, Motel 6 could ultimately pay up to $8.9 million, including reimbursement of legal fees and administrative costs, Saenz said.
“We’re very pleased with the settlement because it will provide for future protections and compensation,” he said.
The civil rights group alleged that Motel 6 discriminated against Latino customers at two locations in Phoenix by sharing their whereabouts and personal information with U.S. immigration agents who later arrested at least seven guests.
Motel 6 said last year that its Phoenix employees would no longer work with immigration authorities after the Phoenix New Times newspaper reported that workers were providing guests’ names to agents.
In a tweet at the time, Motel 6 said: “This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management.”
The Washington state attorney general also sued the chain in January, saying it had violated a state consumer protection law by providing the private information of thousands of guests to immigration agents without a warrant. The attorney general’s office in that state began investigating after news reports about the Phoenix case.
The Phoenix lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight unnamed Latinos who stayed at two Motel 6 locations in the city in June and July 2017. All but one was arrested.
ICE agents visited some guests at their rooms after they showed Motel 6 employees their passports, driver’s licenses or identification cards issued by the Mexican government, according to the lawsuit.
It said one woman was deported from the United States and a man spent 30 days in a detention center until he could raise a $7,500 bond.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement wasn’t targeted in the lawsuit, and the agency in the past has declined to comment on the legal action.