NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Advocates for a man who was working at the Hard Rock Hotel construction site before it collapsed say if he is deported from the U.S. the investigation into the deadly incident could suffer.
Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma is now in ICE custody. Mary Yanik is an attorney with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and is representing Ramirez Palma.
“Mr. Ramirez Palma is still being held in an immigration facility in central Louisiana,” said Yanik.
She said he has had conversations with a federal agency investigating the October 12 incident which killed three construction workers.
"Just this week he had another interview with OSHA, their division that investigates whistleblower complaints but he's still, so far as I know is slated for deportation, we believe this week,” Yanik said.
ICE arrested Ramirez Palma two days after the construction site collapse according to his advocates.
Yanik said he has been working in construction for years and has been in the U.S. since 1999, though without legal documents.
"The supposed justification for the arrest, that he was fishing without a license doesn’t make any sense, he had a valid fishing license at that time,” she said.
Yanik believes there is more to his arrest.
"It could have been retaliation for him speaking out, raising safety complaints on the job multiple times before the collapse and for speaking with the media immediately after the building collapsed, he spoke with Spanish-language media that day,” she said.
This week New Orleans city council members Helena Moreno and Jason Williams called on ICE to not deport Ramirez Palma, saying he should be released from custody and allowed to contribute to the ongoing investigations.
Yanik welcomes their support.
"It’s very encouraging. We obviously believe that his testimony and participation in the investigation into the collapse is key not just for the workers on that site, but really for the entire city of New Orleans that needs to get to the bottom of what happened there,” she said.