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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.