Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have arrested at least 20 people at a pair of Motel 6s in Phoenix, Arizona, in a pattern that's led local immigration attorneys to worry the hotel chain is deliberately exposing guests it suspects are living in the US illegally, the Phoenix New Times reports.
A spokeswoman for ICE refused to comment on whether the agency was acting on tips from Motel 6, and the hotel chain never returned the New Times's requests for comment. But anonymously, front-desk employees of the two locations where the arrests went down told the New Times passing guest lists to ICE was standard procedure.
"We send a report every morning to ICE—all the names of everybody that comes in," one clerk said. "Every morning at about five o'clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE."
Several Phoenix attorneys are now representing undocumented immigrants who are facing deportation after being picked up at one of the two Phoenix Motel 6 locations. In June, 33-year-old landscaper Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez checked into the hotel and—when asked for identification at the front desk—handed over his Mexican voter ID card. Six hours later, three ICE agents showed up at his door and arrested him after he told them he didn't live in the US legally. The agents later wrote in a statement of probable cause that they were "following a lead" and "received information that Rodriguez-Juarez was checked into room #214."
"I'm thinking to myself, How would they know that?" Rodriguez-Juarez's attorney, Juan Rocha, told the New Times. "I'm assuming it was a Motel 6 person—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."
Immigration attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado told the New Times he represented a client who was deported after being picked up at a Motel 6 in May. His client's probable cause report was just as vague as Rodriguez-Juarez's: ICE agents wrote they were "following a lead" when they "encountered" him.
"It just didn't make any sense," Maldonado told the New Times. "The coincidence would have been too much. He only stayed there one night, and they had the exact room number."
Though the attorneys haven't been able to confirm their suspicions, at least four lawyers who spoke with the New Times said they think something shady is at hand. Motels in Phoenix don't have to turn over their visitor logs without a warrant, but there's nothing stopping them from doing so voluntarily. And while ICE wouldn't reveal whether or not it received information from hotels and motels, Jonathan Howard—a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department—said the practice does happen.
"On occasion and through informal contacts," Howard said, "various hotels and motels have shared their guest lists with officers."
Update 9/14: Raiza Rehkoff, the director of public relations and marketing for Motel 6's parent company, G6 Hospitality, confirmed to the Huffington Post that staff members at the two Phoenix locations were working with ICE without management approval. Rehkoff added that G6 put an end to the practice and is investigating what went down, but wouldn't disclose whether any staffers would face disciplinary actions.
"Regarding recent media story on Phoenix-area location, this was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management," Rehkoff told HuffPo in an emailed statement. "When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued. We are currently investigating and will provide more information shortly."
Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.