Court records revealed that a number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests have been made from two Motel 6 locations in predominantly Latino neighborhoods in Arizona, lending credence to the theory that employees were tipping off officials on an alleged undocumented immigrant's location, according to a Phoenix New Times report on Wednesday.
A conservative estimate of 20 arrests from the two corporate-owned locations were said to have been made between February and August, the New Times reported.
In one case, ICE officers were said to be "following a lead" and that they "received information" on the specific room number of a suspect who hours earlier had shown the front-desk clerk a Mexican voter ID card.
"I'm thinking to myself, how would they know that?" Juan Rocha, an attorney representing the suspect, told the New Times. "The client said he gave them a Mexican ID card — but there's people who visit the US all the time who have Mexican IDs. How does that establish that you're here without authorization?"
"I'm assuming it was a Motel 6 person," Rocha continued. "I don't know who else would have told them — thinking, 'Hey, this guy doesn't speak English, he has a Mexican ID card, I'm going to call ICE.'"
Denise Aguilar, an immigration attorney based in Arizona, said that rumors of employee incentives were being floated around those in ICE custody.
"They have heard … that ICE is paying $200 per person for the front-desk clerk to report," Aguilar wrote in an email to the New Times.
Employees from the two locations told the New Times that sharing guest information with ICE was standard practice.
"We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in," a front-desk clerk said. "Every morning at about 5 o'clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE."
Following the report, Motel 6 said in a statement on Wednesday evening: "This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued."
A spokesperson for Phoenix's ICE division said that the agency "wouldn't be able to confirm how we are getting our information."
If the Motel 6 locations were sharing guest information, it would not necessarily be violating the rule of law. In a 2015 decision, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that demanding guest records from hotel operators would be considered an unreasonable search. However, it left open the possibility that the hotel could voluntarily disclose that information to law enforcement officials.
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