Backlash from Phoenix New Times' revelation that Motel 6 employees coordinated with immigration officers intensified Friday, not only here but around the nation. Community groups and legislators denounced the practice outside one of the locations that repeatedly turned over guest lists to ICE.
In Phoenix, with the blue-and-red “6” emblem behind them, speakers called for a boycott of the company and spoke of betrayal across the street from one of the two motels, located at 1530 North 52nd Drive, where ICE arrested 20 or more guests.
"For businesses out there, if you're in our communities profiting from us, from our hard-earned money, and you want to be racist and hurt our communities, just know that we're going to find out, and we're going to make sure that our economic power is not going to you," said Viridiana Hernandez, of the Center for Neighborhood Leadership.
Hernandez said Motel 6 should change its policies and fire the employees responsible — immediately. She added, “And I want to know: What are they going to do to support the 20 families that are now in deportation proceedings because of their actions?"
A local hotel workers’ union, Unite Here Local 11, demanded a complete accounting of the practice. Members asked Motel 6's parent company to reverse course, disavow the practice, and repair the damage by joining other hotel industry leaders who have voiced support for measures that protect undocumented immigrants, such as DACA.
Lucia Vergara, 38, a member of the union’s executive board, told New Times, “As soon as I heard what was going on, it broke my heart.” Motel 6 should not cooperate with ICE in any way other than what is required by law, she explained — anything else is a violation of privacy and an attack on the immigrant community. “We’re family,” she said simply. “We live here.”
The news has sparked outrage nationally. Petitions online are collecting signatures for a boycott of the company: One currently has over 8,200 supporters. Around a dozen activists held signs and gathered outside the headquarters of Motel 6's parent company, G6 Hospitality, in Carrollton, Texas.
In Washington, Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego is demanding answers. In a joint letter to the acting director of ICE, Gallego and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) urged the agency to "expressly forbid the random screening and harassment of hotel guests by your personnel in the future."
Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro joined in, saying that he will request more information from the Department of Homeland Security. He wrote on Twitter that the Motel 6 arrangement with ICE "amounts to an intelligence operation."
Several Arizona state legislators were also outside the hotel on Friday to issue statements of condemnation.
State Representative Athena Salman called for a boycott, telling reporters, “As a former hospitality worker, I know firsthand this industry relies on immigrant labor. Motel 6 relies on immigrant patronage, and to go after immigrant families and tear them apart is simply un-American.”
State Representative Mark Cardenas welcomed reporters to his legislative district, where this Motel 6 is located. “The employees of the motel behind me have breached not only our privacy, but the trust of our community,” he said
Thursday, Motel 6 released a statement acknowledging that these two Phoenix motels have shared guest lists with ICE on a daily basis, after New Times reported the practice. The company said it will issue a directive to all locations “making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.”
But Tomas Robles, the executive director of Living United for Change Arizona (LUCHA) said that the company’s statement of explanation didn’t nearly resolve the issue.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
“They’re looking for somebody to scapegoat, and if they can scapegoat a nameless employee, why not?” he told New Times.
Of the explanation that these were local, isolated incidents unsanctioned by management, Robles said, “I don’t believe it for a second.”
“Leadership creates culture, and culture spreads throughout whatever organization you’re in. There is a culture of racism or bigotry within Motel 6, and if that didn’t exist, this issue wouldn’t happen. Just because it hasn’t been reported in other states doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
As the event wrapped up, three men emerged from the lobby of the Motel 6, one with a keycard that read “Welcome” dangling from his belt. They spoke briefly with the security guard who was stationed at the entrance to the parking lot. After glancing at the demonstrators, grim-faced, they walked back inside.