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LA Times

ICE to Deport Hard Rock Whistleblower

Trump's ICE working to deport him before he speaks with OSHA about the deadly collapse

Brian Young's picture
Nov 26, 2019

Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was a worker at the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans. He was working on the ninth floor when the building collapsed and he fell three floors down. Injured, Ramirez Palma wanted to make sure that the world got a first-hand account of what happened inside the building so he did an interview with a Spanish language television station.

Just hours after the interview, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) came knocking. Since Ramirez Palma had a previous deportation order from 2016 he was detained and slated for removal. Ramirez Palma’s lawyers believe that the arrest and deportation were because he was speaking out about the dangers on the site.

According to the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), Ramirez Palma has submitted a written report to OSHA about the collapse but has not yet spoken in person to the agency. According to the Associated Press, an investigator with OSHA is attempting to schedule the in-person interview. However, this was thrown into chaos on Monday when his lawyer Mary Yanik was told by an OSHA investigator that ICE planned to deport Ramirez Palma that afternoon. By the afternoon, an ICE spokesperson walked back that threat, saying there was no plan to deport him on Monday, but he still has not spoken with OSHA.

 “There would be many more tragedies like the Hard Rock Hotel collapse if workers hadn’t organized to demand safety regulations, whistleblower protections and the right to unionize,” said NOWCRJ. “ICE’s arrest of Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma undermines the investigation into the cause of the collapse, sends a chilling signal to workers at dangerous worksites everywhere and puts workers of all immigration statuses in danger. Every agency and elected official charged with keeping New Orleans workers safe must stand up to ICE and ensure that this rogue agency does not target Joel or any other impacted workers. ICE cannot be allowed to deport a key victim-witness to an ongoing investigation into a tragedy of huge significance to this entire City.”

Ramirez Palma’s legal team is seeking emergency relief from deportation to allow him to stay in the country. They say that as long as the investigation is going on, Ramirez Palma and the other workers from the site will need to be interviewed to provide insight into what happened.

“My husband’s coworkers are terrified to report anything right now because they see what happened to my husband and they don’t want to be arrested and deported too,” said Ramirez Palma’s wife. “We can’t let ICE silence my husband and the other Hard Rock workers. We can’t let them keep covering this up. My husband has already had two buildings collapse on him in the last two years. I don’t want other workers and their families to keep going through that here in New Orleans.”

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