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Civil rights group says settlement close in Motel 6 lawsuit

May 30, 2019
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2019 file photo, shows a Motel 6 in Phoenix. Arizona's attorney general wants a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by Motel 6 guests to be renegotiated, saying it doesn't directly benefit those whose private information was shared with immigration officials. Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Wednesday, May 29, 2019, that his office has filed documents in U.S. District Court in Phoenix asking a judge to deny preliminary approval of the proposed $7.6 million settlement. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona attorney general’s criticism of a lawsuit settlement with Motel 6 over the sharing of information with immigration officials is pointless because the agreement has already been renegotiated, a Latino civil rights group said Thursday.

“There was no renegotiation because of what the Arizona attorney general said or filed,” said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The specific aspect he objects to will not change.”

The organization is representing eight unnamed people who stayed at two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix in June and July 2017. All but one was arrested as a result of employees voluntarily giving their personal information and whereabouts to immigration officials.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office announced Wednesday that he recently filed a brief in U.S. District Court in Phoenix to ask a judge to reject a proposed $7.6 million settlement. The terms were set up so that most of the money would go to four immigration-related charities and not those directly affected, according to Brnovich.

Saenz called Brnovich’s claims a mischaracterization. The charities will only get a payout if there are an insufficient number of claims with merit, he said. Otherwise, they will receive nothing.

“If, on the other hand, a small number of class members file claims, Motel 6 should not benefit from that circumstance by receiving all of its money back,” Saenz said. “The idea is there should be a minimum payout to incentivize better conduct in the future.”

Attorneys are finalizing the new proposal for a sum that is not yet public, Saenz said. It will be filed in court by the end of June.

Judge David Campbell told attorneys for the organization and Motel 6 in January that he needed more information before he could approve the settlement. Among his questions were how many people were affected. Both sides have said as many as tens of thousands of guests had their personal information shared.

Besides compensating targeted guests, the agreement would order its locations to prevent the practice of sharing private information.

Motel 6 last year said its Phoenix employees would no longer work with immigration authorities after the Phoenix New Times newspaper reported workers were providing guests’ names to agents.

The national budget motel chain settled a similar lawsuit last month in Washington state for $12 million. Names of guests were improperly given to immigration officials for two years, according to state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The information led to targeted investigations by ICE agents. People at seven Motel 6 locations were detained or deported.

Ferguson said Motel 6 gave ICE information on a daily basis about a total of 80,000 guests without a warrant between 2015 and 2017.

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