Within 24 hours of making a statement criticizing the conditions that led to the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, Delmer Joel Ramirez-Palma was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to Our Voice Nuestra Voz, this was a retaliatory action taken because Ramirez-Palma stood up for worker’s rights. Ramirez was injured in the collapse after falling three stories when the Hard Rock Hotel partially collapsed. He is one of five workers at the site who has filed a lawsuit against 1031 Canal Investments, Citadel Builders, Harry Baker Smith Architects, Heaslip Engineering, and other contractors involved with the Hard Rock Hotel construction in Orleans Parish Civil District Court stating that the collapse was caused by inadequate materials and supports at the site.
According to Ramirez-Palma’s attorney Daryl Gray, Ramirez’s arrest and pending deportation are why other workers from the site are afraid to come forward. Gray believes that they fear “being deported or some other retribution by their employers.”
On Tuesday, Our Voice Nuestra Voz and other activists held a rally in support of Ramirez-Palma, calling for an end to his deportation.
“Our exploitation did not begin when ICE started snatching us up and getting rich off our peoples’ bodies in detention centers,” the group said in a press release. “It is bigger than the current political environment; this dates back centuries. This includes our city’s history with the United Fruit Company’s banana republics, destabilizing Central America by destroying local economies. As a result, families like Joel’s flee violence, persecution, and poverty in countries like Honduras. They come to our city seeking safety, only to be met with more exploitation.”
Ramirez-Palma is currently being held at the Catahoula detention center. According to Our Voice Nuestra Voz, he is still being denied adequate medical treatment, though his lawyers have stated that he has seen a doctor.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor currently serving as Editor-in-Chief of Big Easy Magazine. Her work has also been featured in publications such as Wander N.O. More, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, Examiner.com, and others. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_