Honduran Delmer Joel Ramrez Palma, who has lived in New Orleans for 18 years, warned supervisors of safety concerns

A construction worker who attempted to warn managers about building dangers and was seriously injured in last months deadly Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans, will be deported on Monday, his lawyers said this week.

Delmer Joel Ramrez 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.

Ramrez 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,Ramrez 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.

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A vigil in New Orleans for those who died in New Orleans. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

The Guardian has contacted King Company for comment.

The US governments 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.

Ramrez Palmas 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, Ramrez Palmas wife, said the encounter with a US Fish and Wildlife Service ranger that led to her husbands arrest was unusual, but cant 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 drivers 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 mans treatment has sent a further chill through the undocumented community, already on high alert under Donald Trumps aggressive enforcement policies.

Theres already extraordinary fear in this environment from any worker to report labor violations, said Yanick.

Ramrez Palmas lawyers say his case illustrates how a crackdown on undocumented workers could also hamper investigations into the cause of the accident.

Theres really crucial information here that the public needs to get to the bottom of what happened at Hard Rock, she said.

In 2016 a judge ordered Ramrez Palma to be deported. Since then, he had been regularly reporting to the agency and filed for a stay of deportation earlier this year, his lawyers said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and Osha did not respond to requests for comment.

Bueso and her husbands lawyers said they were concerned for his health and could not determine if he had received recent medical treatment for his injuries.

Daryl Gray, who is representing Ramrez Palma and four other Hard Rock workers in a civil suit against building developers, said he had spoken to numerous undocumented workers too afraid to talk about the accident.

He called federal authorities treatment of Ramrez Palma unfair at its core.

And it is contrary to seeking justice, he added. One agency is investigating this tragic collapse and then another government agency is moving material witnesses out of the country.

For Bueso, who is also Honduran and has lived in New Orleans for 14 years, the fallout from the tragedy has brought on immediate fears for her whole family, along with a more lasting impact.

While she said she was afraid speaking publicly could attract retribution, she was doing so in the hope this doesnt happen to other families.

Thankfully my husband is alive, other people didnt have so much luck. The impact that it has Ive been getting notes from my childs school saying that he is having suicidal thoughts. So, it is something that really marks you.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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