As FAIR reported in January, Washington’s attorney general filed suit against Motel 6 for cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when the agency was investigating hotel guests. The Evergreen State claims the motel chain’s cooperation with immigration authorities constituted both a discriminatory business practice and a violation of privacy rights under state law.
That absurd lawsuit was followed by a separate class-action filing in Phoenix, Arizona, by former Motel 6 guests whose information was shared with ICE. Rather than contest the class-action claim, Motel 6 has agreed to pay $7.6 million to the plaintiffs. According to Fox News:
“As part of the agreement, the motel has agreed to pay up to $5.6 million to patrons who ‘were placed in immigration-removal proceedings’ while paying up to $1 million to guests who were interrogated and up to an additional $1 million to patrons whose information was shared with authorities, court documents stated, according to the Washington Post. The motel will cover the former patrons’ legal fees.”
Yes, you read that correctly. An American company has agreed to a massive payout because its employees reported crimes to the appropriate law enforcement agency – and it’s paying a bonus to those who were in fact here unlawfully and who, therefore, were justly placed in removal proceedings by ICE.
What’s even worse is that the law is firmly in Motel 6’s favor. As FAIR noted in its earlier piece on this issue:
- In United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court held that there is no legitimate expectation of privacy in information voluntarily conveyed to a company and exposed to its employees in the ordinary course of business.
- In Schneckloth v. Bustamonte,the Supreme Court firmly held that any party with a Fourth Amendment privacy interest may consent to a search, obviating the need for a subpoena or warrant.
- In City of Los Angeles v. Patel, the Supreme Court specifically noted that hotel operators may consent to a search of their registration records.
- The Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution establishes that, in cases of conflict, federal law takes precedence over state law and even state constitutions. This means that states can’t attempt to bind the federal government to a particular course of action via state law – as Washington is attempting to do in this case.
Despite the fact that it seems to have a winning case, Motel 6 sadly appears to have adopted a strategy of cutting its losses, rather than vindicating its rights. Our legal system has now become a tool for coercing companies to disobey federal immigration law, lest they be branded “racists” by the enforcers of political correctness. And one wonders, if the Motel 6 employees had been reporting other illegal activities would public safety still have been trumped by the perpetrators’ alleged privacy rights?