Things That Matter

A Honduran Immigrant Construction Worker In New Orleans Warned About The Hard Rock Hotel And Is Now In ICE Custody

Statistics show the people in the most vulnerable professions are jobs held by the Latino community. Window washers and construction workers put their life on the line every single day when they’re up on those skyscrapers or building them. Maids and hotel workers face assault all the time. The majority of the time, these workers don’t have benefits or insurance, so if they get fired or even worse, die on the job, their family gets nothing. We also know these workers face the risk of being deported when things go wrong on the job site. 

On Oct. 12, a Hard Rock Hotel construction site in New Orleans collapsed, and it was all captured on video.

Credit: @NBC6News / Twitter

The video footage of the building’s downfall went viral on Twitter. It looked incredible scary as it was located in the heart of New Orleans. The construction site was apparently an $85 million development project by King Company and was 18-floors high. When it came crashing down, it was evident that people were hurt, and even worse, dead. 

Three people died, and dozens more were injured as a result of the crash. One of those injured was a 38-year-old construction worker, Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma.

Credit: @criticalreading / Twitter

Palma happened to be on the 13th floor when the building came down. After the crash, his family told the Washington Post that Palma experienced headaches, back pain, trauma from the collapse, which resulted in insomnia. 

Just two days after the crash, Palma was facing deportation. What makes this story so suspicious is that Palma had reported issues with the construction site before its crash.

Palma, who is an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, reported the problems with the construction site to his supervisors and coworkers at least five times, according to the Post, but they never listened to his concerns. 

The Post also reports that Palma’s supervisors became aware that several people knew about his concerns. “After the collapse, some of those workers approached him, telling him that he was right, according to the complaint. The group was within earshot of several supervisors, the complaint says.”

A day before the crash, a video (above) showed a construction worker filming the construction site and discussing the shoddy structure. The man in the video says in Spanish that there were not enough support beams to hold the concrete above it. It’s unclear if the man speaking in the video is Palma. 

Palma’s lawyer said that his client is clearly being targeted because he had expressed concerns about the construction site. 

Credit: @markmobilty / Twitter

“I don’t believe in coincidences,” Homero López Jr., Palma’s lawyer, told the Post. “It definitely looks like they’re targeting him.”

His lawyer adds that his detainment, which occurred when Palma was out fishing, happened very abruptly, just two days after the crash. He said his client had been working on his immigration cases for years. 

His legal team is requesting the federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to stop Palma from being deported.

Credit: @univisionnews / Instagram

“I hope that they intervene in this case given the stakes, not only for Joel but also for all workers and for the integrity of this investigation,” Mary Yanik, another lawyer on Palma’s case, told New Orleans Public Radio. Yanik said that the OSHA has previously helped another undocumented worker in the past, so she hopes they will do the same with Palma. 

“He could see that this was not right,” Yanik said. “His supervisor’s response to him raising those safety issues was ‘If you don’t want to do the work, we’ll find someone else to do it.'”

ICE claims that there’s nothing suspicious about Palma’s detainment because there had been an order of deportation already on file.

Credit: @prof_hlas / Twitter

“Any claims that this has anything to do with his involvement with the Hard Rock situation is not correct. Just look at the dates,” Bryan Cox, a spokesperson for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told New Orleans Public Radio. He added that Palma was ordered to be deported nine days before the building crashed. 

According to The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (Workers’ Center), Palma’s case is getting a good amount of support from numerous organizations and groups from around the country. Click here for more information on how you can help Palma and his family. 

READ: In Texas, Undocumented Construction Workers Are The New Slaves

US Marine Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented Immigrants

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US Marine Arrested For Smuggling Undocumented Immigrants

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The U.S. military is going through a serious rough patch. Not only are they have issues recruiting new service members, but they’re also having problems retaining mental health workers, which is a really big deal because they help the people already inlisted. Now we’re seeing the ramifications of that.  Just this week a U.S. Navy sailor shot and killed two people at Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor military installation. The Navy sailor went on to kill himself. It all happened in the same week as the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which the celebration is supposed to take place this Saturday. The issues the military is facing is not combatting depression and other mental health problems within their units, but some ethical ones that go completely against what the country stands for. 

On December 2, U.S. marine was charged for smuggling undocumented people across the border near San Diego, California.

Credit: Unsplash

“On December 2, 2019, at approximately 1:30 a.m., a junior-enlisted Marine with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division was taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel for allegedly bringing in undocumented immigrants at the San Ysidro port of entry,” the Marine Corps said in a statement, according to ABC News. “The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody. The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

The 20-year-old Marine has not been publically named, but the news station adds that they were not part of the “Trump administration’s southwest border support mission.”

Credit: Unsplash

Additional reports say the Marine was pulled over in a 2007 Ford Mustang for “additional screening.” That is when border officials found two Chinese women in his trunk. 

“The Marine is currently being held in civilian custody,” Marine spokesman Lt. Cameron Edinburgh said in a statement to Fox News. “The determination as to the adjudicating authority has not yet been made.”

This latest charge comes on the heels of a slew of other military officials who have also arrested on similar smuggling charges.

Credit: Unsplash

Just this summer, 19 Marines were arrested for various offenses. ABC News reports that the Marines were allegedly involved “in activities ranging from human smuggling to drug-related offenses.” All of the Marines involved in this case were stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The number of marines involved in this case gradually increased from 16 to 19.

“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” the statement said, according to the network. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”

According to Stripes.com, the Marines were all arrested in front of their peers during their morning formation and that was done purposely to make an example out of them. 

“It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” 1st Marine Division Spokesman 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh told the online news site. 

As for the reason to not disclose the names of the Marines arrested, Marine Maj. Kendra Motz said that is because “Out of respect for the privacy of the implicated Marines,” and added, “we will not release names or other identifying information until charges are announced.” Six out of those marines arrested have already pleaded guilty to human trafficking and drug charges. 

In related news, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that detainments at the border continue to decrease.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan said last month that in October, the trend of a decline of detainments at the border continues to show a decline. 

“The numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis,” Morgan said, according to The Texan news. 

In May, however, it was a whole different story.  Back then, border officials said they saw 144,000 detainments in one month alone. From then until October, there has been a 70 percent. 

It’s certainly an odd predicament that the government and the military are facing because on the one hand detainments at the border are going down, which speaks positively of their security tactics. Yet, on the other hand, their own military workforce looks to be in quite the dilemma going against their own principals. 

READ: CBP Arrests A 16-Year-Old After Catching Them Using A Remote Control Car To Smuggling Drugs Across The Border

Seven Men Sentenced To Up To 50 Years For The Murder Of Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Caceres

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Seven Men Sentenced To Up To 50 Years For The Murder Of Honduran Environmental Activist Berta Caceres

Berta Caceres Flores / Facebook

Seven men were sentenced to up to 50 years in prison in a Honduras court on Monday for the 2016 murder of the environmental activist Berta Caceres. Four of the men, Elvin Rápalo, Henry Hernández, Edilson Duarte, and Oscar Torres Velásquez, who were identified as the hitmen hired to shoot Caceres dead in her own home, were sentenced to 34 years in prison each.

An additional 16 years and four months were handed down to them for the attempted murder of Mexican environmentalist Gustavo Castro, who was also with Caceres during the shooting. Three more prison terms of 30 years were handed down to other individuals that played a part in the murder including an officer, an ex-soldier, and a manager of the dam project that Caceres opposed. The three men reportedly paid the four gunmen $4,000 to kill Caceres because of her activism work. 

The slaying of Berta Caceres, then-45, brought international outrage and protests as she became a well-known women’s rights defender and indigenous lands rights activist. 

Caceras, a member of the Lenca indigenous community, may not have been a household name but her impact in the world of environmental rights was certainly felt. She was one of the co-founders of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, a grassroots organization that advocates for the rights of indigenous people. Caceras gained notoriety by protesting the company Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), which had planned to create the $50 million Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam across from the Gualcarque River. Various indigenous communities depend on the river staying clean and healthy and free-flowing to sustain their communities.

“The river is like blood running through your veins. It’s unjust. Not only is it unjust, it’s a crime to attack a river that has life, that has spirits,” Caceres told Aljazeera in 2016. 

The building of the dam would have had major impact on water, food and medicine for her Lenca people and even caused flooding. One of her successful protests included placing a roadblock that halted construction workers from reaching the dam building site. After almost 10 years of opposition, the Chinese state-owned company Sinohydro, who was jointly developing the dam project with DESA, pulled out of the project citing community resistance. 

Her activism and work in stopping the building of the dam gave Caceres notoriety and international attention. Caceres was awarded the Goldman environmental prize in 2015 for her role in preventing the building of the dam. The project was suspended shortly following her untimely death.

Authorities have connected her death directly to her activism work against the failed dam project.

The individuals behind the death of Caceres were connected to executives that were connected to DESA and the failed dam project. The reasoning behind the plotted murder was due to multiple delays and financial losses that were linked to protests that Caceres was behind. Back in November 2018, a Honduran court convicted the seven men for the attack. 

“From the outset, the path to justice has been painful, as our rights as victims have not been respected. These sentences are a start in breaking the impunity, but we’re going to make every effort to ensure that all those responsible – the company executives and state officials identified in the trial – are prosecuted,” Bertita Zúñiga, Cáceres’ second-eldest daughter, said after the men were charged on Monday. 

While Caceres’ family is happy to see some justice be delivered, Zúñiga still believes the real culprits behind her the murder still on the loose. She has previously blamed the Atala-Zablah family, a well-known Honduran business group and DESA shareholders, as the ones behind her mother’s murder. 

“This is a day of pain because the intellectual authors of my mother’s murder are still enjoying impunity,” Zuniga said to reporters. “We are not going to believe that there’s true justice until these people are in jail.”

Despite this tragedy, Zuniga is not letting her mother’s legacy go to waste.

The message that Caceres spread of protecting indigenous communities still lives on according to her daughter, who continues to do similar work. She is committed to keeping her mother’s legacy alive and remembers her for the amazing impact she had on marginalized communities around the globe. 

“I remember her as a hardworking person. But I also remember her with a big smile on her face, because I believe that this struggle cannot be just to martyrize ourselves. We fight with joy and hope because if we do not, more than half of the struggle is lost,” Zúñiga told EarthJustice. “We always say that the image of my mother multiplied because we found her present in the struggle of so many women from so many communities who continue to fight very hard.

READ: Women Of The World Unite To Chant ‘A Rapist In Your Way’ A Chilean Song That Has Sparked A Global Feminist Movement