By Jack Mayne
More than 100,000 guests whose private information was shared by Motel 6 in SeaTac and elsewhere in Washington state are eligible to claim a share of a $12 million resolution negotiated by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The attorney general’s office announced the settlement potential on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
The claims process is open for more than 100,000 guests whose private information was released by Motel 6 “without their knowledge or consent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” At least one person of Hispanic background was deported leaving a wife to struggle to support their toddler and four other children,
“Individuals are eligible for their share of the $12 million resolution that resulted from Attorney General Ferguson’s lawsuit against Motel 6,” a release said.
Ferguson said Motel 6 “violated the privacy rights of tens of thousands of Washingtonians without their knowledge or consent, and paid $12 million to avoid facing my legal team in trial. We want to ensure everyone whose privacy was violated by Motel 6’s unlawful conduct receives some restitution, which is why we’re encouraging eligible individuals to file claims.”
Two SeaTac locations
The AG’s release said guests who stayed at one of two Motel 6 locations in SeaTac between Jan. 1, 2015 and Sept. 17, 2017 “may be eligible for restitution and can file a claim online at www.WashingtonMotel6Settlement.com.
Besides the two SeaTac locations, the others are in Bellingham, North Everett, South Everett, South Seattle and South Tacoma.
“Provided they file a claim, all guests whose personal information was unlawfully handed over to ICE without their knowledge or consent will receive a share of the restitution,” Ferguson’s news release said. “The amount of restitution each individual receives will depend on a number of factors, including the number of claims and the severity of harms suffered due to Motel 6’s conduct.”
The third-party companies (AB Data and Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc.) handling the claims process are not part of the federal government and will not turn over information to immigration authorities. Individuals submitting a claim are not required to disclose their immigration status or pay any fees to take part.
Ferguson’s news release “encourages consumers and their family members affected by Motel 6’s unlawful policy to file a claim for restitution.”
The attorney general’s office said claims must be submitted by Dec. 31, 2019. Individuals have the option of submitting the claim form online, through the mail or via the mobile messaging app WhatsApp. More information on the claims process, including alternative ways to submit a claim for restitution and a contact number for questions, is available on the claims administrator’s website.
Affected individuals will receive a letter and claim form in the mail at the address Motel 6 had on file when they stayed at one of the motel locations. The letter contains details of the resolution and how to submit a claim; however, individuals can also fill out online claims forms and do not need the letter or to wait to file a claim.
The amount of restitution a guest receives will vary. Guests whose information Motel 6 shared with ICE, but who suffered no further consequences, are still eligible for compensation. Guests who faced questioning, arrest or deportation will receive more restitution for the serious harms they suffered as a result of Motel 6’s actions.
Individuals who suffered harm from investigation, detention or deportation following their stay at one of the seven Motel 6 locations will have an opportunity to share their experience in order to secure compensation as part of the claims process. Binational migrants’ rights organization Centro de los Derechos del Migrante Inc. (CDM) will contact these individuals to discuss the harms they experienced and complete the claims process.
Case filed in April
The news release is the result of a resolution in Ferguson’s lawsuit against Motel 6 in April.
The attorney general’s office said many Motel 6 locations in Washington turned over the personal information of their guests to ICE on a daily basis without requiring a warrant. From 2015 to 2017, seven Washington locations shared the personal information of every guest, including customers’ names, driver’s license numbers, passport/green card/other ID numbers and dates of birth.
When Ferguson announced the resolution in April, the office was aware that Motel 6 shared the private information of approximately 80,000 guests. Once Motel 6 provided the full list of guests who stayed at their hotel chain for the entire time frame, that number has increased to more than 100,000 people.
Each time Motel 6 released a guest list, it included the private information of every guest at the hotel without their knowledge or consent, violating their expectation of privacy.
Latino man deported
In addition to violating the privacy of tens of thousands of guests, Motel 6’s disclosures resulted in ICE’s targeted investigation of many guests with Latino-sounding names on or near the Motel 6 properties where they stayed. For some guests, Motel 6’s disclosures resulted in the loss of their homes and jobs and separation from their families.
For example, one Seattle man stayed at a Motel 6 near SeaTac for one night wrapping Christmas presents for his four children. ICE agents approached him in the hotel’s parking lot, detained him and deported him some days later. His wife had to retrieve the presents and his other belongings from the Motel 6 after his arrest. The man was the sole provider for the household, and his wife is currently struggling to support their children.
The lawsuit asserted that Motel 6’s disclosures of private guest information violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Washington Law Against Discrimination.
As a result of Ferguson’s case, Motel 6 paid $12 million to the office. Additionally, the company signed a legally binding commitment to no longer hand over guest information without a warrant or other lawful basis at all locations ― a policy it had to adopt nationwide. The resolution also required the company to provide training for its employees to ensure they do not release guests’ private information unlawfully.