Update, 3:25 p.m.: Motel 6 has issued another statement in response to our story on their practice of sharing guest lists with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement:
"Over the past several days, it was brought to our attention that certain local Motel 6 properties in the Phoenix-area were voluntarily providing daily guest lists to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). As previously stated, this was undertaken at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it, it was discontinued.Original story continues below:
Moving forward, to help ensure that this does not occur again, we will be issuing a directive to every one of our more than 1,400 locations nationwide, making clear that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing daily guest lists to ICE.
Additionally, to help ensure that our broader engagement with law enforcement is done in a manner that is respectful of our guests’ rights, we will be undertaking a comprehensive review of our current practices and then issue updated, company-wide guidelines.
Protecting the privacy and security of our guests are core values of our company. Motel 6 apologizes for this incident and will continue to work to earn the trust and patronage of our millions of loyal guests."
After we published a story Wednesday revealing that Motel 6 locations in Phoenix seemed to be collaborating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the internet pretty much exploded.
#BoycottMotel6 started trending. The ACLU demanded answers. People called on Tom Bodett to respond. Well-known Latino cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz sketched a "Motel 6 Immigration Detention Camp." An otherwise innocuous post about fall foliage on the company's Facebook page attracted hundreds of angry comments. Motel 6 even got yelled at by a coleslaw fan account.
Meanwhile, Drudge Report, the pro-Trump garbage pile known as /r/The_Donald, and some guy calling himself Robert E. Lee on Twitter reacted with unbridled enthusiasm.
Finally, Motel 6 put out a public statement "regarding recent media reports."
Statement Regarding Recent Media Reports on Phoenix-area Location pic.twitter.com/MPxaspNA6b— Motel 6 (@motel6) September 14, 2017
We also received an emailed statement from spokeswoman Raiza Rekhoff, which says the following:
Thank you for your email and my apologies for the late response. Regarding your media story on the Phoenix-area location, this was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued. We are currently further investigating and will provide more information shortly.Couple of quick points: One, Motel 6 is not denying that it had been sharing guest information with ICE, which is interesting.
Two, we can only assume that "When we became aware of it last week" translates to "After you asked us about this repeatedly."
We also have some unanswered questions:
• If this was something that was "implemented at the local level," then why did local management tell us to get in touch with the corporate PR team when we asked about it?
• What precisely did the old policy entail, and what aspects of it have been discontinued? If an ICE agent shows up without a warrant and asks to take a look at that night's guest list, will the front desk clerk give it to them? Will ICE be allowed to conduct surveillance in and around the motel? Likewise, if an individual Motel 6 employee alerts ICE about a guest who they suspect to be present in the country illegally, will they be disciplined?
• Why exactly was Motel 6 collaborating with ICE in the first place?
It's also worth remembering what Phoenix-based immigration attorney Ray Ybarra Maldonado told us: When ICE shows up at a local motel, it's often because police got there first, then called them.
So while we'd like to take this response as a victory for local journalism, we'll continue to be on the lookout for ICE activity at Motel 6 as well as other local hotels and motels. Please feel free to email [email protected] or [email protected] with any tips.
Joe Flaherty contributed reporting.