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Activists Say Injured Hard Rock Construction Worker Remains Detained By ICE

Travis Lux
Advocates stand in front of the old United Fruit Company building in downtown New Orleans Tuesday morning, to show support for Delmer Joel Ramirez-Palma -- the Hard Rock Hotel construction worker who faces deportation.

About 20 activists condemned the continued detention of a construction worker Tuesday morning who was injured during the Hard Rock Hotel collapse last month, and then later detained by immigration officials.

Two days after the partial collapse of the Hard Rock site, Delmer Joel Ramirez-Palma was arrested by US Customs and Border Protection, then detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

He is currently being held at the Catahoula Correctional Center northeast of Alexandria, Louisiana, and is awaiting deportation.

According to his lawyer, Homero Lopez, who is also the Executive Director of Immigration Services and Legal Advocacy (ISLA), Ramirez-Palma was ordered to be deported back in 2016, but had been cooperating with ICE officials.

“ICE was aware of him,” Lopez said. “It wasn't until he spoke out and made a demand to be taken care of and to be a whistleblower [that he was arrested].”

A previous attorney had submitted a “stay of removal” to place a pause on Ramirez-Palma’s deportation, Lopez said. After that, Ramirez-Palma had been “working with ICE” prior to being arrested by Border Patrol and detained by ICE. Lopez said Ramirez-Palma was only detained after he spoke with local media in the aftermath of the Hard Rock collapse.

Lopez worried his detention could deter other workers from speaking out about unsafe work conditions.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox suggested advocates were spreading false information about ICE and the circumstances of the case “that results in needless fear,” he said. “Such behavior does a disservice to the communities they claim to represent.”

Lopez hopes to stop Ramirez-Palma’s deportation, and get his immigration case reopened.

As Coastal Reporter, Travis Lux covers flood protection, coastal restoration, infrastructure, the energy and seafood industries, and the environment. In this role he's reported on everything from pipeline protests in the Atchafalaya swamp, to how shrimpers cope with low prices. He had a big hand in producing the series, New Orleans: Ready Or Not?, which examined how prepared New Orleans is for a future with more extreme weather. In 2017, Travis co-produced two episodes of TriPod: New Orleans at 300 examining New Orleans' historic efforts at flood protection. One episode, NOLA vs Nature: The Other Biggest Flood in New Orleans History, was recognized with awards from the Public Radio News Directors and the New Orleans Press Club. His stories often find a wider audience on national programs, too, like NPR's Morning Edition, WBUR's Here and Now, and WHYY's The Pulse.

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