Worker Hurt in New Orleans Hotel Collapse May be Deported

November 26, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — A construction worker hurt in the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans may be deported to Honduras as soon as Monday.

Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was arrested by immigration authorities two days after the Oct. 12 collapse that killed three people and injured dozens more, according to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. An order for his deportation had already been issued in 2016. He’s currently being held at an immigration facility at the Alexandria International Airport in central Louisiana.

Advocates and attorneys say Ramirez Palma’s deportation would complicate the federal investigation into the collapse. He had spoken out about unsafe conditions and his deportation could silence other workers and witnesses who are in the country without proper documentation.

“I am sure the Hispanic workers there don’t want to cooperate for the same reason. They are scared the same thing that happened to Joel can happen to them,” Ramirez Palma’s wife said in a press call last week.

A New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice attorney, Mary Yanik, said they believe immigration authorities planned to deport Ramirez Palma on Monday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Bryan Cox declined to detail possible deportation plans, citing security reasons.

Ramirez Palma was arrested while fishing in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. Federal wildlife agents asked for his fishing license and identification before summoning Border Patrol officers.

Cox said the arrest wasn’t related to Ramirez Palma speaking out about the job site, but he sees how it could deter others from coming forward. He blamed this fear on advocacy groups and critics making “outrageously irresponsible” claims about the arrest being retaliatory.

A lawsuit by Ramirez Palma and four other injured workers says the project’s developers and construction firms caused the collapse by using inadequate materials and supports.

Ramirez Palma’s wife said he’s worked in the area for nearly two decades and had complained before the collapse that the concrete floors were sagging, forcing him to double and triple-check measurements in the imbalanced building.

His immigration attorney, Homero Lopez Jr., says Ramirez Palma’s arrest and detainment caused him to miss a scheduled surgery for a serious eye issue.

Information from: The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate.

About the photo: Two large cranes for the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel under construction are detonated for implosion in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. On Oct. 12, three workers died when several floors of the multistory building pancaked. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP)

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