Is Motel 6 selling its guests to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)? The Phoenix New Times certainly thinks so:
A Phoenix New Times review of court records found that between February and August, ICE agents made at least 20 arrests at Motel 6s, showing up roughly every two weeks. (Since many of the documents we reviewed contained only vague details about where ICE encountered an individual, the actual number is likely even higher.) All took place at one of two Motel 6 locations: 4130 North Black Canyon Highway or 1530 North 52nd Drive. Both are in predominantly Latino neighborhoods. New Times was unable to find records indicating that ICE conducted arrests at other local motels during this same time period.
However, according to the New Times, employees “at both locations” confirmed that sharing details with ICE was standard operating procedure:
“We send a report every morning to ICE — all the names of everybody that comes in,” one front-desk clerk explained. “Every morning at about 5 o’clock, we do the audit and we push a button and it sends it to ICE.” ... Both locations are corporate-owned, dispelling one of the other popular theories: That a local franchise owner is collecting a week’s rent in advance, then calling ICE so that they can rent out the room to someone else.
One thing that we do know: Motel 6 is extremely enthusiastic about cooperating with law enforcement, and, elsewhere in the country, has been criticized by the ACLU for sharing guest lists with local police
Under the law, a warrant is required for a motel to turn over such information. But that’s only if the motel doesn’t want to cooperate. According to the testimony of various detainees, that’s exactly what happened at the Motel 6.
And what a group of people to allegedly sell your guests to! ICE is the second-hugest investigation unit in the entire government, with lagging behind the FBI. In 2014, it had a budget of $5.34 billion. They run two hundred detention centers which hold 31,000 people. One hundred and seven deaths have happened in ICE facilities since October 2003. Most recently they left “50 immigrant women and children stranded at bus station,” according to Public Radio International.
That was at the end of the summer. In June, according to the Courant, ICE used an immigrant’s nine-year-old son as bait to lure him into a trap.
ICE makes arrests at courthouses. The Guardian has labeled them “out of control. And they are only getting worse.” As sneaks and brutalizers, removers of children and hunters of immigrants, the agents of ICE are generally and correctly despised.
But they’re only one half of the equation. We all expect ICE to behave monstrously, so nobody is shocked by their behavior. Motel 6 is a different matter.
The primary delusion of neoliberal capitalism is the notion that gigantic business interests can be virtuous—and that they somehow represent a counterweight to government.
If you believe this, I invite you to read a history of government spying since 9/11. That should be enough to convince you that if there’s one thing business loves, it’s playing along. Sometimes they even get paid.
The Motel’s alleged violations doesn’t just strike at basic notions of good neighborliness and client-consumer confidentiality. It’s a breaking of the most basic, primal laws of hospitality: when I take you under my roof, I agree not to sell you out to the wolves who prowl outside the door. What a splendid display Motel 6 makes! What a triumphant business model! They take your money, and then they whisper to the men with guns. Do they even return the guest’s cash?
Knowing how modern corporate America operates, my guess is no. Motel 6 apparently loves to drop a dime, but only a figurative way. Does Tom Bodett visit private detention centers and ask the mothers trapped there to Yelp good vibes back to the enterprise? “Was your seizure by federal agents clean, quick, and comfortable? Ha ha ha, we don’t care.” When you check-in, do they notify you that you’ll be checking out at the wherewithal of the federal government? When they’re selling you out, do they still provide turn-down service? There are so many unanswered questions!
Motel 6 is the Jacksonville Pizza Hut redux. There is one group of people that matters to megacorps, and it’s their shareholders. Pizza Hut Jacksonville proved they don’t care about their employees, and Motel 6, if true, proves that they don’t give two federal knocks for their customers. There is great money in snitching, after all. Why does ICE take their victims to jail? Staying in Motel 6 is punishment enough. Why spend taxpayer money on jails? Why doesn’t ICE just keep their victims trapped at the Motel 6, trapped like a duck in the pen?
It’s as if every hotel in America decided to reveal how morally compromised they really were—Trump hotels on one end, and Motel 6 on the other.
It gets worse; Motel 6 is owned by the same company that owns the Hilton Worldwide chain, Blackstone. According to Business Insider, Blackstone is the “world’s alternative investment firm.” Its head is Stephen Schwarzmann, a CEO who, you guessed it, belonged to Trump’s corporate council; in fact, “Schwarzman led the strategy and policy forum, which comprised CEOs advising the president.”
During an investor conference, Delivering Alpha, Schwarzmann whinged about the backlash he got after Charlottesville:
“You should have seen some of the emails I got,” he told a Wall Street audience at the Delivering Alpha conference in New York on Tuesday, September 12. He said he received hundreds of such emails. “I was accused by people of being a Nazi,” he added. “I mean, I’m Jewish. It was absurd.”
It gets better! Schwarzmann disputed an account published by the Times, which claimed the power-friendly billionaire was upset about Trump’s Charlottesville equivocation.
Business Insider again:
“I don’t know where the New York Times got that one.” ... Despite the criticism, Schwarzman said there was a societal obligation for business leaders to help the government. “We all have a higher obligation than just making money,” Schwarzman said.
If the New Times is correct, then those obligations apparently include selling out your customers for nothing. That is what apparently counts as charity for Schwarzman and the Motel 6 line: forgoing bucks to get in good with the powerful. There’s a hymn titled “Give of your best to the Master,” and that’s what Motel 6 apparently did. If that’s the case, then the company ought to stop their commercials: we know exactly what customer they serve. Lights off, Tom.