- A construction worker who warned his supervisors about potentially unsafe safety lapses at the Hard Rock hotel in New Orleans was deported to Honduras on Friday, according to the Guardian.
- Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was one of dozens injured when the hotel construction site partially collapsed onto Canal Street. The accident killed three people.
- Ramirez Palma was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) two days after the collapse of the hotel, and his lawyers are reportedly suspicious that his detainment was connected to his previous safety complaints.
- A senior lawyer at a New Orleans advocacy group for workers and racial justice told the Guardian that Ramirez Palma was interviewed by the whistleblower division of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) days before he was deported.
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Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was one of the construction workers at the Hard Rock hotel in New Orleans the day it collapsed onto Canal Street, killing three and injuring dozens.
Before that, Ramirez Palma had warned his supervisors that there were potentially dangerous lapses in the safety of the construction. He was seriously injured in the collapse, and was briefly hospitalized for head trauma, internal inflammation, and an acute eye injury that still needs surgery.
On Friday, Ramirez Palma was deported to Honduras. He was detained two days after the collapse by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who apprehended him while he was fishing with his family.
Ramirez Palma’s lawyers are suspicious that the detainment and deportation had to do with his safety complaints, the Guardian reports. A senior lawyer at a New Orleans advocacy group for workers and racial justice says Ramirez Palma was interviewed by the whistleblower division of the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) days before his deportation.
His laywers have developed an immigration case for Ramirez Palma, as well as a civil complaint by him and other workers at the Hard Rock hotel site in New Orleans. The bodies of two victims are still trapped under rubble at the site, and Louisiana officials are working with developers to finalise plans to demolish the rest of the building.
Ramirez Palma has lived in the US with his wife and three children for 18 years, but was first ordered to be deported in 2016, according to the Guardian. He regularly checked in with ICE since then, and had reportedly filed for a stay of deportation in 2019.
His arrest and deportation drew criticism from immigration activists and some Louisiana government officials, including Ava Dejoie, secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Dejoie wrote to the New Orleans field director of ICE and asked that Ramirez Palma not be deported, to no response, the Guardian reports.
“In the aftermath of a disaster of this scale, the public needs all available information to understand what happened at the worksite, including information from Mr Ramirez Palma and workers like him who witnessed safety violations before the collapse,” Dejoie wrote, according to the Guardian. “If he is deported, the public may never know what key information is being deported with him. The investigations will undoubtedly suffer.”
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