For members of the undocumented community, safe spaces are scarce. It’s why they’re often wary of seeking help or reporting crimes. They fear they’ll be reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported. But at hotels – places not tied to a government agency – they should naturally expect to have their privacy respected as much as any other guest. However, a Phoenix New Times investigation found that in at least two Motel 6s in Phoenix, personnel have reported undocumented guests to ICE.
The publication reviewed court records between February and August, which show that in that time, ICE arrested at least 20 people at two Motels 6s (4130 North Black Canyon Highway and 1530 North 52nd Drive). Phoenix New Times estimates the number is likely higher, but hard to decipher because some documents lacked sufficient detail.
And though ICE and Motel 6’s Corporate Office either refused or failed to comment to Phoenix New Times, the publication came across too many examples of ICE rounding up guests at these motels, making it hard to write off as sheer coincidence. For example, when 33-year-old Manuel Rodríguez-Juarez checked into a $45-a-night room in June, a front-desk clerk told him he needed present identification. Rodríguez-Juarez handed over a Mexican voter ID card. Six hours after settling in, three ICE agents knocked on his door and detained him.
ICE and police have picked up a few of Immigration attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado’s clients at a motel. “They get the list of people who are staying there, and they run them through to see who is wanted for warrants,” Maldonado told the Phoenix New Times. “If they have someone who is undocumented, they call ICE.”
Then, there’s also the fact that a few Motel 6 employees corroborated the story. “We send a report every morning to ICE – all the names of everybody that comes in,” a clerk said. “Every morning at a out 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.”
The investigation couldn’t fully answer some questions, such as if the motel is financially profiting when it collaborates with ICE. But it did bring attention to this topic and forced Motel 6 to make a statement about the practice. “This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management,” Motel 6 told BuzzFeed. “When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.”
But even with these changes, it’s important to note that Motel 6 has severely impacted the lives of immigrants. The government has deported some and separated them from their families. Others, like Rodríguez-Juarez, languish in an immigrant detention center. Rodríguez-Juarez’s lawyer is arguing for asylum on his behalf.