A national motel chain admitted Thursday its Phoenix locations handed over daily guest lists to immigration enforcement officials.
ICE agents have been routinely showing up at Motel 6 locations in west Phoenix to arrest undocumented immigrants who book rooms.
The Phoenix New Times reported on the connection Wednesday after a long investigation.
"A business saying 'We treat all our customers as suspects.' It's just mind boggling," said Steve Kilar, spokesman for the ACLU of Arizona.
In a statement Thursday, Motel 6 claimed it had no idea what was going on until a New Times reporter asked about it:
Over the past several days, it was brought to our attention that certain local Motel 6 properties in the Phoenix-area were voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.This was undertaken at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it, it was discontinued... We will be issuing a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations nationwide, making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.
For several months, immigration attorneys here have noticed frequent arrests of undocumented immigrants who stay at a Motel 6.
"It was shocking that this private information is given to government agents," said Juan Rocha, an attorney for an undocumented immigrant arrested at a Motel 6 on North 52nd Drive at the I-10.
Court paperwork on the Motel 6 arrests typically said ICE agents were "following a lead" when they showed up. Motel 6 confirmed its employees were providing those leads.
The ACLU's Kilar as well as attorney Rocha agree that it doesn't appear Motel 6 did anything illegal.
But Rocha says this episode only ramps up suspicion of law-enforcement among Latinos.
"When you talk to people there's this perception that if you walk down the street, you have to sort of look both ways," Rocha said.
12 News reviewed the arrests of five undocumented immigrants at Motel 6.
All five had been deported at least once before; that's how ICE flagged them on the motel guest list.
ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O'Keefe issued this statement:
ICE does not typically disclose or discuss specific information related to the source of its enforcement leads... It's worth noting that hotels and motels, including those in the Phoenix area, have frequently been exploited by criminal organizations engaged in highly dangerous illegal enterprises.