Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Motel 6 will pay a $7.6 million settlement to guests who were questioned or detained by immigration authorities as part of a class action lawsuit in Arizona.
Latino civil rights groups sued the motel chain after a Phoenix New Times article revealed that Motel 6 locations were sharing guest lists with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on a nightly basis.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund accused the hotel of discriminating against Latino guests. It said the action violates the Fourth Amendment, the right to remain free from unreasonable searches, and Arizona privacy and consumer-protection laws.
Eight plaintiffs, who remained anonymous during the court proceeding, were detained by ICE after staying at Phoenix-area Motel 6 locations between February 2017 and last week. Seven of the eight were arrested and one was deported.
The New Times reported at least 20 cases in which former guests were arrested.
In one case, a woman and four children checked into the Motel 6 in Black Canyon when their apartment air conditioner broke. She presented a Mexican consular ID to the motel on check-in, which was photocopied.
The report said ICE agents visited the next morning, interrogated her and threatened to separate her from the children if she didn't comply. She was also ordered to go to an ICE office for more questioning, it added.
"Plaintiffs and Motel 6 have filed a proposed settlement agreement that would resolve the lawsuit between the two parties if it is approved by the district court," G6 Hospitality, the chain's parent company, and MALDEF said in a joint statement. "In September 2017, when this issue emerged, the company launched an investigation and issued a clear directive to all locations nationwide, emphasizing that the practice is prohibited. Motel 6 fully recognizes the seriousness of the situation and accepts full responsibility for both compensating those who were harmed and taking the necessary steps to ensure that we protect the privacy of our guests."
As part of the settlement, Motel 6 will also pay up to $1.3 million for the plaintiffs' legal fees -- including $300,000 in attorney costs.
Unclaimed funds from the settlement will go to immigration-rights nonprofits approved by the court.
The settlement also instructs Motel 6 to take steps to better protect guest information.