NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A spokesman for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement flatly denies that an illegal immigrant's lawsuit against the owners of the Hard Rock Hotel had anything to do with his deportation.
Joel Ramirez Palma, who was working on the Hard Rock when it collapsed, was sent back to Honduras on Friday after ICE detained him shortly after the Hard Rock collapse.
Palma spoke to the Spanish-speaking newspaper ‘Jambalaya’ shortly after he escaped the Hard Rock collapse on Oct. 12.
He was among dozens of workers who fled the collapsing construction site shortly after hearing a loud noise which he believed was the metal and concrete of the building shattering.
Within days of the collapse that killed three workers, a local law firm said it was representing Palma and complained that ICE had already detained him. However, ICE says his immigration status was in trouble, after a hearing on Oct. 3 which was nine days before the collapse.
“The claims that have been made are false. Mr. Palma had been most recently denied, another period of temporary discretion,” said Bryan Cox, with ICE.
ICE says Palma had been given several ‘periods of temporary discretion', which allowed him to remain in the U.S. long past an earlier decision to deport him.
“Mr. Palma was in the country unlawfully, had his day in court, and was ordered removed four years ago, in February 2016,” said Cox.
But ICE says it was not their agents who initiated Palma’s arrest. They say it was U.S. Border Patrol after Palma was caught fishing here at Bayou Sauvage Refuge without a license two days after the Hard Rock collapse.
“He was not arrested by ice, we can’t target a person who we did not arrest. He was arrested after an encounter with U.S. Fish and Wildlife and then Border Patrol,” Cox said.
Brenda Murphy, the 'Jambalaya' reporter who interviewed Palma, finds the entire episode unfortunate.
“Why they don’t deport him before, why wait for this moment,” Murphy said.
But ICE insists the collapse had nothing to do with the deportation.
“The allegations that his removal has anything to do with his involvement with the hard rock is outrageously irresponsible and false,” Cox said.
The ICE spokesman says in spite of having multiple lawyers, none of Palma’s representatives took action in court to try and reverse the removal order. We reached out to several of Palma’s lawyers for comment but we have not heard back.
Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti says just because Palma was deported does not mean he loses his rights in court to seek remedies.