Motel 6 Locations In Phoenix Share Guest Lists With ICE Agents NPR's Ari Shapiro talks with Antonia Farzan, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times, who discovered that local Motel 6 locations were sharing their guest lists with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.


Motel 6 Locations In Phoenix Share Guest Lists With ICE Agents

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In the Phoenix area, some guests at Motel 6 got an unwelcome amenity after they checked in for the night. Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, knocked on the door, asked for papers and sent guests without documentation to an immigration detention center.

This week, the Motel 6 parent company issued an apology, saying employees at some of their Phoenix locations were giving guest information to ICE. Later, Motel 6 said it would direct all of its locations around the country to stop sharing daily guest lists with ICE. This story was uncovered by the Phoenix New Times, and reporter Antonia Farzan joins us now. Welcome to the program.

ANTONIA FARZAN: Thanks for having me.

SHAPIRO: What exactly were the employees of Motel 6 doing?

FARZAN: They were sharing guest lists with ICE every night after they did the night audit. So everyone's information - anyone who stayed in the hotel - their information was presumably being checked against Department of Homeland Security databases to see if they were in the country illegally or had been deported before.

SHAPIRO: Is there any law prohibiting business owners from sharing customer information with federal authorities?

FARZAN: No, actually. There is a 2015 Supreme Court decision that says that a local municipality cannot require a business to hand information over without a warrant. But if the company chooses to disclose it voluntarily, they're within their right to do so.

SHAPIRO: Can you told me the story about one of the people who stayed at the Motel 6 who you learned about?

FARZAN: Sure. We start off with the story of Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez, who was a landscaper here in the Phoenix area before he was detained by ICE. And he got into an argument with his girlfriend who he lived with, so he checked into a Motel 6. They asked for ID to secure the room. So he gave them the only ID he had, which was a Mexican voter ID.

Then a couple of hours later, he's watching TV. It's around 11:30 p.m. And he gets a knock on the door, where two ICE agents show up. So he's currently being held in detention right now. And that led his lawyer to become very suspicious that potentially someone had noticed, you know, this guy has a Mexican ID. I'm going to call ICE.

SHAPIRO: How did you find out about this?

FARZAN: We got a tip that this was happening, started talking to local immigration attorneys and definitely kept hearing from people that this was a trend. They didn't really know what was behind it but that they kept seeing people get picked up at Motel 6. So at that point, we turned to court records and were able to confirm that there was a pattern happening here. And we found that at least 20 people that we know of were picked up at two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix.

SHAPIRO: You tried for weeks to get a response from the Motel 6 corporate office with no luck. And then soon after you published the story, the hashtag #BoycottMotel6 started trending. The ACLU demanded answers. And then the company released a statement. What do you make of their response?

FARZAN: Well, we still have a lot of unanswered questions, the biggest one being, why were they doing this in the first place? I mean it seems like a pretty strange business model, and it's not clear how they stand to benefit.

We also know - I mean they've said that they've directed all of their locations nationwide to stop sharing guest information with ICE. But we'd be curious to find out, for instance, if an individual front desk clerk suspects someone to be present in the country illegally and informs ICE, would there be a consequence for that person? Will they allow ICE to be in the parking lot doing surveillance - that kind of thing.

SHAPIRO: I could imagine a listener saying, if somebody is in the country illegally, what's wrong with alerting ICE to that fact?

FARZAN: That's definitely a valid point that people can make. But I think it's important to keep in mind that with all of these cases we looked at, the person didn't have any outstanding warrant. There weren't any complaints. There was no sign that they were violating other laws while they were staying at the motel. In other words, they weren't bothering anybody. They had paid to rent a room. So it's hard to see what problem it was causing for the motel to have them as a customer.

SHAPIRO: Antonia Farzan is a reporter with the Phoenix New Times, a free weekly newspaper in Phoenix. Thanks for joining us.

FARZAN: Thanks so much for having me.

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