Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Pramila Jayapal want to hold the motel chain accountable after managers had their own guests arrested by immigration agents.
Since Donald Trump took office, agents working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resorted to reprehensible, underhanded tactics to remove people, often with no regard for due process or the suspects’ individual situations.
In Sacramento, ICE agents targeted a church during a Mother’s Day service. In Alexandria, they ambushed people as they left a hypothermia shelter. In El Paso, they even arrested a battered woman at a courthouse as she applied for a restraining order against her abuser.
Even more disturbingly, some national businesses appear to be helping them hunt down suspects. Motel 6 has been colluding with ICE in Phoenix for months — and Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Pramila Jayapal of Washington are furious.
In a joint letter to acting ICE chief Thomas Homan, Gallego and Jayapal said that the arrangement between ICE and Motel 6 “raises a number of grave concerns.” The letter blasts immigration agents for “operating an indiscriminant dragnet, reportedly aided by hotel managers,” and questioned their “willingness to engage in racial profiling in the process of identifying and questioning suspects based on the Motel 6 guest lists.”
“Further, it’s important to note that Motel 6 provides short-term accommodations to survivors of domestic violence and to people attending medical appointments at area hospitals,” the letter continued.
In a statement to Shareblue Media, Jayapal gave an even more scorching condemnation:
The mere idea that ICE and Motel 6 were allowing this kind of behavior to persist is alarming and unconscionable. This type of random screening and harassment has created a dragnet, using the state’s limited resources to trap people who are of no threat to public safety. These practices abandon all respect for due process and clearly show that ICE agents prioritize convenience above all else. This is not how things should be.
We are demanding a full report from ICE on their actions, including the number of people they have apprehended from these Motel 6 lists and if these unjust practices are taking place in other locations across the nation. We won’t stand for this in any state and we look forward to ICE’s full cooperation.
According to a report by the Phoenix New Times, employees at two Motel 6 locations in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods of Phoenix were systematically calling immigration agents on mostly brown-skinned guests for most of this year. The report found that “between February and August, ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at Motel 6s, showing up roughly every two weeks.”
In one case, 33-year-old Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez was apprehended by three agents in his hotel room, and the agents knew a suspicious amount of information:
The statement of probable cause for Rodriguez-Juarez’s case filed with the U.S. District Court is vague, noting briefly that ICE officers were “following a lead.” And Department of Homeland Security records state only that ICE’s Phoenix Mobile Criminal Alien Team Unit had “received information that Rodriguez-Juarez was checked into room #214.”
“I’m thinking to myself, how would they know that?” [Attorney Juan] Rocha said. “The client said he gave them a Mexican ID card — but there’s people who visit the U.S. all the time who have Mexican IDs. How does that establish that you’re here without authorization?”
He added, “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.’”
When asked, Motel 6 executives admitted local managers were turning over guests to ICE, but denied any involvement, insisting, “When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.”
But that is not good enough. ICE relying on hotel employees to profile suspects is a terrifying development, and bodes ill for personal safety and liberty.
Gallego and Jayapal plan to ensure the perpetrators of this scheme will be held accountable, and that immigrants will be protected from this kind of draconian tactic.