Marriott Under Fire for Hosting US Immigration Service Annual Event

Marriott, like some other hotel chains, refused to serve as detention centers to temporarily house people picked up in Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.

That’s reasonable business to turn down. Some US airlines asked the government not to use their planes to deport children and separate families. Aside from the public relations aspect, this was a difficult issue for airline employees to grapple with being in the middle of.

While several New York JFK hotels have been used to house the homeless, that doesn’t entice other guests to stay. It’s not what their staff are accustomed to handling either.

At the same time Marriott isn’t a purist on this issue, voicing no public concerns when the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh was used as a detention facility by the government of Saudi Arabia. In fact it was used for torture and even reportedly murder.

Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, Credit: Ritz-Carlton

Now the chain is coming under criticism because the Marriott Marquis Chicago is hosting the Customs and Border Protection annual trade symposium and will feature the acting Secretary of Homeland Security and acting Customs and Border Protection commisioner.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has been clear that the chain shouldn’t be in the business of vetting the messages of each group that books a meeting.

Do we really want, as a society, for companies like Marriott and the peers in our industry and others to sit and make judgments or points of view on people sitting in our meeting rooms? I shudder to think that we really expect that my role or Marriott’s role is to say your views are not acceptable in our hotels and that another person’s views are

Marriott Marquis Chicago, credit: Marriott

This isn’t an issue of free speech rights per se, the government isn’t dictating who can and cannot speak or meet at a Marriott. But it is a question of an open society.

Hyatt, on the other hand, can be bullied into determining who shouldn’t and shouldn’t be permitted to host a meeting. And Motel 6 goes a step further still, Motel 6s in Phoenix are known for ratting out guests to ICE.

Interestingly the same people who call for Marriott to make a judgment about whom they’ll do business with on the basis of their values likely don’t support bakeries choosing to provide wedding cakes only to heterosexual couples.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why are you giving attention to this fringe “action” group? We’re talking about an event for a legitimate function of government.

  2. Looking at the Chicago murder and crime rate, you’d think they’d welcome more law enforcement!!

  3. It’s a free country and Marriott is a private business. As such, they can do business with who they like.

  4. Why don’t you take them in Gary. Feed them, cloth them, house them in your home. Give all your revenue from this blog to illegals. Of course you don’t have to deal with their disproportionate amount of crime and violence because you probably live in a safe secluded Jewish community yet demand that everyone else be forced to accept those who destroy their neighborhoods (like half the publishers on boardingarea)

  5. @Jack Hudson – Impressive. Not only are you factually incorrect that illegals commit more crime (they don’t, check the numbers), but why would Gary feed, house, and clothe the INS people? Oh, and showing off that you’re a raging bigot is just sad.

  6. So where is your Funniest Inflight Meltdown story? It’s on Boarding Area but I can’t get to it. The setup sounds hysterical.

  7. The Hilton Woodland Hills hosted this group March 2019:

    Conservative street artist Sabo savaged terror-tied CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) and Muslima Congresswoman Ilhan Omar on Saturday in Woodland Hills, California.

    Radical Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN) is scheduled to speak at a fundraising event for terror-tied CAIR for their 4th Annual Valley Banquet Saturday evening.

    Sabo called out Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitism and CAIR for their pro-Jihad actions.

    CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist funding case in US history has been fiercely fighting to silence any American who dares criticize Islam.

  8. Sad to see so many insane & absurd comments on a travel blog.

    Yes, Marriott is a private company and they’re not doing anything illegal by hosting the group. Many (clearly not all) view the current CBP as a division of our government without morals. I personally wouldn’t take their business as I wouldn’t want to support or reinforce their current mission.

    I, for one, am glad that Gary reminded of Arnie’s gutless comment:
    “Do we really want, as a society, for companies like Marriott and the peers in our industry and others to sit and make judgments or points of view on people sitting in our meeting rooms? I shudder to think that we really expect that my role or Marriott’s role is to say your views are not acceptable in our hotels and that another person’s views are.”

    His statement is clearly meant to apply to current government & alt-right groups (among others) and he’s happy to have Marriott take the business from anyone, while playing the 1st amendment card. Think he’d have the balls to make that statement even 5 years ago, which I remind you implies he’d allow KKK meetings at his hotel? No way in hell.

    I’m a Marriott lifetime Titanium member at Marriott and this post s a fresh reminder for me to keep my business with Hyatt & Hilton. Thanks Gary!

  9. There’s always going to be a line, and we’re always going to argue about where that line is. I’ve got no issue with Marriott taking this business.

    And Arne is correct. No snark, I promise: For-profit companies are not the entities that should be making moral and value judgements on society. They are in business to return profit to shareholders, no more, no less.

  10. It is a legitimate government organization with a legitimate government role to play. The fact that I strenuously object to many of the current administration’s policies and their sometimes unconscionable implementation doesn’t mean Marriott should refuse meeting space.

  11. Gosh Gary I figured this would be a really biased blog post and it turned out fairly even toned, except the comments. I agree that hotels should not be put in a position of judgement but should be able to retain the right to refuse service. Hosting events from church groups, NRA, political party events can come under fire in today’s world.

  12. BTW Gary: I’m amazed how many people read your blog so they can post a comment complaining your blog isn’t some other blog. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

  13. As something of a 1A abaolutist myself, I honestly do not understand why the “freedom of association” aspect of 1A gets such short shift from other self-styled 1A advocates. If I want to know what someone believes in, I find that it’s much more instructive to observe the collection of people with whom they are willing to engage than to just take their stated beliefs at face value. Preference falsification is real.

  14. I for one appreciate these posts. Please keep em coming 🙂 I do, however, agree with Marriott’s CEO. This is a totally legit fair and I don’t see how anyone can get upset.

  15. I had a really good job working in lettuce fields and then an illegal took it. Then I had a really good job washing dishes in a busy restaurant. You guessed it! An illegal took that one too.

    The irony in this whole blog post is the critical comments directed at Gary. He posted the information. Unless I missed it, I did not see where he took a stand on the issue yet as typical, the nasty, bigot conservatives go after him.

  16. the only time you ever see “controversial” applied to something in the media is when its about a conservative event. ever notice that?

  17. What’s going on at our southern border is simply enforcement of EXISTING laws. Too bad that the last few POTUS didn’t enforce them.
    If you disagree, please review the law before responding.

  18. Ahh Sean – is your snowflake melting? Regardless if you agree with a group’s viewpoint or policy hosting a conference doesn’t in any way mean the hotel or conference facility agrees with the views. It is just like the (soon to be unemployed) millennials at Wayfair that walked out in protest because their company legitimately filled an order. Get over it people – it is BUSINESS, not politics.

    BTW Sean if you are this sensitive and offended you likely are having a very difficult time in 2019. SMH!

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