A construction worker who attempted to warn managers about building dangers and was seriously injured in last month’s deadly Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans, will be deported on Monday, his lawyers said this week.
Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma, a Honduran citizen, was working inside the 18-storey building when it dramatically crumbled on to a busy downtown intersection on 12 October, killing three and injuring dozens. He survived a fall from the ninth floor to the sixth by swinging from a rope.
Ramírez Palma was hospitalized with serious injuries, including head trauma and internal inflammation, and still requires surgery for an acute eye injury, according to his wife and two lawyers working on separate immigration and civil injury cases.
Immediately after the accident, he was interviewed by a Spanish-language media outlet. Two days later, he was arrested by immigration authorities while fishing with his family in a national wildlife refuge.
He has lived in New Orleans for 18 years.
According to his lawyers and his wife, Ramírez Palma had reported safety concerns – including asymmetrical building measurements and uncured concrete too weak to support weight – to his supervisors at King Company, a New Orleans construction firm, before the deadly collapse.
Construction managers allegedly told him to ignore the issues, according to Mary Yanik, senior staff attorney at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, an advocacy group.
The US government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha) and the New Orleans police department are currently investigating the cause of the collapse. The bodies of two victims remain inside the building, which will be imploded in January.
Ramírez Palma’s arrest highlights the unique risks undocumented immigrants face on job sites, advocates said.
“The timing is highly suspicious … and the circumstances of the arrest are extraordinarily suspicious,” said Yanik, noting she had no direct evidence tying his arrest to his employer.
Tania Bueso, Ramírez Palma’s wife, said the encounter with a US Fish and Wildlife Service ranger that led to her husband’s arrest was unusual, but can’t be certain it was targeted. She claims the officer “seemed to actually be looking for him” as he was resting in the shade. The ranger asked for a valid fishing license, which he had, and then for a driver’s license, which he did not.
The family fishes regularly. Bueso said they had been through license checks before, but have never been asked for personal identification before the October encounter.
The Honduran man’s treatment has sent a further chill through the undocumented community, already on high alert under Donald Trump’s aggressive enforcement policies.
“There’s already extraordinary fear in this environment from any worker to report labor violations,” said Yanick.
Read complete article on The Guardian website here.