Can a Business Provide Your Private Information to ICE?

Yes, and though it’s against the law, illegal immigrants in Washington may still be deported

According to a lawsuit brought by the Washington Attorney General’s Office, six Seattle area Motel 6 locations gave ICE agents guests’ full names, driver’s license numbers, phone numbers, license plate numbers, and the room number in which they stayed from 2015 to 2017. The data of more than 9,000 guests was then allegedly used by the agents to target individuals for detention, singling out those with Latino-sounding surnames. If the allegations are true, this was without guests’ knowledge or consent, without a warrant, and in violation of privacy policies, consumer protection laws, discrimination laws, and privacy laws.

Kripa Upadhyay practices immigration law in Seattle, and says the case struck a nerve throughout the state.

“It was a huge shock to all the attorneys when we found out. It’s hard to tell if this is going on anywhere else, because nobody knew it was happening at Motel 6,” she says. “There was obvious racial bias, because the information shared targeted only Hispanic- or Latino-sounding names. Basically, anyone who checked in, if you appeared to be an immigrant, then information was shared with ICE, without telling the guests that this was going on. They were doing this daily, providing a daily guest list voluntarily. Once you provide all that information, you’re basically saying, ‘Please come and arrest these people.’”

The actual number of people detained or eventually removed based on information is unknown. But once someone is in detention, it can be very difficult to defend. “Attorneys can try to terminate proceedings based on the way that ICE came up with the information,” says Upadhyay, “but the problem is: Anybody in the United States undocumented is at risk of deportation and removal, particularly under this administration.”

In other words, there are not a lot of protections, even when information was obtained illegally.

Making matters worse: The immigration court for Washington state is in Seattle, so anyone coming for a court date may have become a target, Upadhyay says. The same goes for their friends and family members who came for moral support. “We’ve actually started asking our clients, ‘Do you have a family friend or someone from your church that you can stay with?’” says Upadhyay, “because we’re trying to avoid their having to be in a similar situation.”

Undocumented immigrants are understandably afraid to come forward and seek assistance if they have stayed at a Motel 6 but have not yet been pursued by ICE. If you or anyone you know is in such a situation, talk to a reputable attorney experienced in removal defense. If, however, you’re a U.S. citizen who suspects your personal information was inappropriately mishandled, consult with a consumer rights attorney to discuss possible remedies.

For more information on this area of law, see our immigration overview.

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