On Oct. 12, construction worker Delmer Joel Ramírez Palma was working on the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans when the structure collapsed, killing three workers and injuring dozens of others. He survived a fall of three flights by swinging on a rope, although he sustained serious injuries.

Ramírez, who has lived in the New Orleans area for 18 years, had, prior to the building’s collapse, raised safety concerns with his supervisor, including the apparent sagging of concrete floors. Immediately following the collapse, he was interviewed by the Spanish-language media outlet, Jambalaya News.

Two days later, Ramírez’s world came crashing down again. While on a recuperative fishing trip with his family in Louisiana’s Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, he was approached by U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers and asked to produce a fishing license, which he did.

Ramírez was then asked for a driver’s license, which he didn’t have. The officers then summoned Border Patrol agents, who placed him under arrest.

Like many undocumented workers, Ramírez has an outstanding deportation order. But he filed for a stay of deportation earlier this year and has been regularly reporting to ICE. Now he is in custody, slated for impending deportation.

There’s something seriously wrong here. Even if Ramírez’s arrest has no relation to his complaints to management about the building’s condition or his comments to the press, he is an important witness to this tragic event. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, is investigating the collapse, to determine whether safety violations occurred, and if so, which parties should be held accountable.

Ramírez’s advocates are warning that whisking him away will have an undeniable chilling effect on the other workers at the Hard Rock Hotel work site. The workers are painfully aware that Ramírez spoke out, and is now facing deportation — a fate they understandably fear could be theirs if they similarly come forward with information.

There are an estimated 8 million immigrant workers in the U.S. without proper work authorization. They routinely suffer employers’ threats to “call ICE” if they dare raise a safety concern or assert their right to minimum wage or overtime pay. Consequently, violations of their rights under these federal worker protection laws — which don’t condition protection on documented status — remain hidden. That allows exploitation of these workers to continue and unsafe conditions like those at the Hard Rock Hotel to go unreported.

This can also affect workers without immigration concerns. When they see their co-workers deported or threatened into silence, the broader message of intimidation isn’t hard to detect.

Aggressive enforcement of our immigration laws obstructs the protection of all workers, documented and undocumented alike. That’s why, on Nov. 21, Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the POWER (Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation) Act. It provides new protections for undocumented workers, and thus helps ensure that enforcement of federal immigration policy doesn’t undermine all workers’ basic job-related rights. It deserves bipartisan support.

In the meantime, we need workers like Ramírez to speak out about potentially unsafe and unlawful conditions at work, without fear of deportation. And we need the government to recognize how important that is, for the benefit of all workers, regardless of immigration status.

Michael Felsen of Jamaica Plain, Mass., retired in 2018 after a 39-year career as an attorney with the Department of Labor, serving from 2010-2018 as its New England Regional Solicitor. This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

(53) comments

jloo

My father was a legal immigrant. Followed the law, got in line and was granted entry into our country. My maternal grandfather had to sponsor him. Meaning, he was not eligible for any government services and if he could not make it here financially, my grandfather was responsible. Why should Mr. Ramirez receive special treatment? He violated the law and came here illegally.

gary4books

I read "... you need to cite your source as a courtesy to others." and I tend to agree. However experts have told me that if no money is involved tht it is not a courtesy. Can we use "convenience?" There ought to be a way to be nice without passing the cash.

gabrielshorn2013

Clever response Gary. However, the correct quote is "if money is exchanged it is not a courtesy ". My statement involved no exchange of money, and is therefore an example of a courtesy.

User1

You forgot the most important sentence in your response Hay.....it says “Ramirez filed for a stay of deportation EARLIER THIS YEAR” and has been reporting regularly”. NOT since 2016 but this year! Read the words!

hayduke2

Read it again User. It starts with "Since then...." referring to the time after his deportation notice and saying he has been doing it since then ( i.e. receiving the deportation notice ). You forgot to read and understand the sentence.

gabrielshorn2013

"Like many undocumented workers, Ramírez has an outstanding deportation order. But he filed for a stay of deportation earlier this year and has been regularly reporting to ICE. Now he is in custody, slated for impending deportation."

Hay, a direct cut and paste from the story. Where does it say "since 2016"? It says he filed for a stay of deportation, and has been reporting since.

hayduke2

Same direct quote from a story - his lawyer's words..

gabrielshorn2013

Hay, where does it say 2016 anywhere in the story? Or three years prior? It doesn't Did you get your information from a different story?

hayduke2

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/nov/22/new-orleans-hotel-collapse-deported-honduras

gabrielshorn2013

Yes, however not stated in this story. If your information comes from outside the story being discussed, a reference to that source is commonly given. A WaPo story stated he was denied a stay of deportation on 03 October. He could have been deported at any time after that...and was.

hayduke2

Sorry, but I still believe that comments are relevant. If supporting, contradictory or clarifying information exists elsewhere, it is relevant.

gabrielshorn2013

Not saying it isn't hay, but if you cite information outside the story, you need to cite your source as a courtesy to others.

hayduke2

Do you mean like when you start spouting employment numbers and related without giving references?

gabrielshorn2013

Here you go. Enjoy!

https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate

gabrielshorn2013

BTW, you still didn't answer any of my questions hay. Why not?

phydeaux994

Without Ramirez and those like him there would be no Hard Rock Hotel being built in New Orleans. Go to to any construction site in America, big or small, and see who the majority of the workers are. And the employers have the best of both Worlds, workers who are paid less AND who are afraid to report safety shortcuts the contractors use to maximize their profits. The Republicans love the immigration system the way it is and will never change it. They love the cheap labor and keeping the workers hiding in the community in ghettos when they are not working. Exactly as it is in Frederick County Maryland.

gabrielshorn2013

Not limited to Republicans phy. Lots of Democrats take advantage of cheap vulnerable labor too. If someone is willing to work for less, the buyer of those services will pay the lower rate.

phydeaux994

But the the Democrats would pass Legislation to legalize these workers in some way in a New York minute. Republicans will never pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It would mean that employers would have to put these workers on their books, pay them a fair wage and give them workers comp. and vacation and standing to report safety violations. In other words, treat them as human beings. Republicans will never treat people of color as human beings, they are murderers and rapists and terrorists and animals and inherently violent and lawless. As long as Republicans are White Supremacists and intolerant of all others, even White “Libturds” as they call them, America will not be whole again.

gabrielshorn2013

Legalize them? No phy. They should not have hired them in the first place. Weren't you recently stating that business owners should be prosecuted for hiring illegal aliens?

phydeaux994

As long as the laws are as they are now, yes, ILLEGAL AMERICAN EMPLOYERS should be held as guilty as the illegal aliens, but they rarely are as we have seen recently at meat packing plants where 200 or more illegal aliens are taken away by ICE but the owners and operators never are. We should and we could set up guest worker programs to allow these workers that are desperately needed by American employers to be legally employed. Trump promised the Farmers he would allow their obviously illegal workers to pass back and forth freely but has not done that, he just diminished the need for them by bankrupting farmers with his trade fiascos.

gabrielshorn2013

It's been that way long before Trump phy, and you know it. Agreed, those that hire illegal aliens who are not allowed to work in this country should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We need to close the loophole that allows people to employ illegal aliens. As I stated previously, maybe it is time to require employers to request ID that only citizens can get, such as a US passport, or a RealID driver's license. Since states have begun issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, a standard driver's license won't do.

phydeaux994

What we need to do is accept that American employers in many industries need these workers. Even with an estimated 8 million illegal workers in the workforce there are still 6 million workers needed in critical industries. And not just in low skill low wage jobs. Factory workers, long haul truck drivers, retail workers, service industry workers, health care workers, construction workers, and right across the Southern Border are able-bodied, trainable, hard working people desperate for jobs. But they aren’t the “right kind” of people and the Republicans don’t want them here, at least not legally. So they’re happy with the system as it exists, complain about people entering the Country illegally on one hand and welcome them in the back door to work at low wages with no benefits on the other.

MD1756

I believe you're wrong on multiple counts with your comment this morning. We don't need more workers becuase we don't need more people period. This planet is over populated already and we are one of the worst polluting countries (especially on a per capita basis). The more people we bring in the fewer children need to be born here to offet the impact. Now, I'm willing for that to happen as it means our need to educate children would decrease and therefore taxes could be shifted from education to infrastructure and environmental protection. However, many of the jobs you describe are lower paying low skill/non skilled jobs. Those that come in with skills (i.e., engineers) are undercutting the salaries of skilled labor who are here already. And yes, compliance with hiring laws needs to be checked and enforced (however there are those who would try to do away with questions on employment paperwork about being able to legally work in this country) with stiff penalties for those who violate and stiffer criminal penalties for those who knowing violate the laws with their hiring practices.

gabrielshorn2013

So we have a point of agreement, prosecute those employers that cheat the system by hiring illegal aliens who, by law, are precluded from working in the US. The Dems now hold the majority in the House, and have since January. So where are the Bill's furthering the enforcement of current laws to prosecute those offenders? Look at the house docket. There aren't any, because Dems want to open our borders to anyone and everyone, while Reps want to have an orderly system of entry and control. Neither side will negotiate. From an economic position, the glut of unskilled labor arriving at our southern border just depresses wages of low-skilled American labor. Meanwhile, millions of high skilled jobs go unfilled. The megatrend for low-skilled jobs is that they will be replaced through automation and robotics, so why do we need even more of such workers? What will we do with them? Read Andrew Yang's book " The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future". Racism is not the propriety domain of Reps phy. There are plenty of Dems that take advantage of illegal aliens too. How many of their nannies or housekeepers are illegal? Roxanna Santos was illegally working at Common Market, so Common Market has lost my business. This is what I meant about both sides sucking. They're both hypocrites that propose legislation that they know the other side will never support. For someone who claims "to be a moderate Republican", you sure don't ever have much positive to say about them. I'm neither.

gary4books

In the past, this would not kill the deal. A"Lyndon Johnson" could trade and praise and get something to a vote. Not perfect, but much better than what we have now. Then enough Senators from both sides could pass it. If allowed by the "majestic Senate leader."

MD1756

Who cares if there were no Hard Rock hotel? And construction is not one of those jobs citizens and green card holders will not do. One of the people I mentored got a job in construction (I even bought som tools for him) onnly to be laid off later as the construction firm increased its use of day laborers. This column only looks at part of the immigration issue to come to the conclusion that enforcing existing laws is hurting everyone in the U.S. It's time for opinion pieces like these to stop trying to sway the opinion of the public. It's time for real studies that include all significant factors (including environmental impact, population impact etc.). Until then, enforce the laws. If someone is knowingly cutting corners and putting lives in danger, aresst them, convict them if found guilty and give them life sentenes (I'd give them death sentences but that has fallen out of favor) for putting profits over other people's lives. The real problem is OSH'as budget to do inspections. They pretty much just investigate issues when deaths are involved otherwise it seems there are rarely any serious consequences for OSHA violations.

gary4books

If McConnell would allow a Senate vote, we could have a new Immigrations law and not this problem. Fix the law.

gabrielshorn2013

Seems the existing law was working Gary. He had his day in court, and was ordered to be deported. He fled. Therefore, he was a fugitive for many years and subject to immediate deportation upon apprehension.

hayduke2

Not exactly... ""In 2016 a judge ordered Ramírez 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."

gabrielshorn2013

Yup, he was denied "entry" and ordered deported. Three years without action? Back you go bud, get to the end of the queue, and do it legally. If he comes back again illegally, it's a felony. Jail time, then deportation...again.

hayduke2

Well, received the notice in 2016 and "since then" he has been regularly reported. So you comment doesn't hold water.

gabrielshorn2013

Hay, such proceedings cannot go on forever. Pick a date, make a decision, and be done with it. If the applicant came here for financial reasons, too bad. See ya! Economic reasons are not a reason for sanctuary. Try again...legally.

hayduke2

Economic reasons are not a reason for sanctuary - agreed but they sure are important to some of our economy where workers are scarce or non-existent. Also kind of goes against the reasoning since they are here to serve our economy in many ways. Bottom line, there should be a way to do both - control immigration and allow workers to aid the US economy.

gabrielshorn2013

No hay. Couldn't those that chose to skip our legal immigration process have followed the law and applied for legal entry? If not, why not. Is it fair to those immigrants who chose to follow our legal immigration process to reward those who chose not to do so? If yes, why? There are 6.4 million unemployed US citizens, and the labor participation rate for those eligible is approximately 65%. This means that chronic unemployment has caused many to drop out of the workforce entirely. Should those 6.4 million, mostly low skilled US workers be denied a job because an ineligible worker is taking the job at a suppressed wage? If yes, why? Should the discouraged workers not be encouraged to rejoin the workforce? If not, why? Since the overwhelming majority of the illegal immigrants are low or no skill workers, and the prediction is that those jobs are going away (see Yang), leaving us with a chronically underemployed class in the future, why should we encourage continued illegal immigration?

hayduke2

The system is broken-sure they can apply but the process is long, Given the current anti immigrant anything the numbers and ability to do that are difficult and unclear. Bottom line, immigration reform is needed.

gabrielshorn2013

No doubt that immigration reform is needed. However, you failed to answer any of my questions above. Why is it acceptable to reward those that violated our laws (both immigrants and employers), while others chose to follow the law. Please look at my questions again. I am interested in your take.

hayduke2

Gabe - of course those that follow the system for legal entry are the desired outcome. However, legal entry is often delayed and made to be near impossible to receive. The Process needs to be streamlined while providing for enforcement and accountability. As far as workforce, many of the jobs are those that the workforce doesn't desire - improve the wages and benefits and I think that issue gets resolved. Watching workers pick fruit and veggies in California comes to mind - backbreaking work with very little upside yet we Americans demand the products. To put the blame solely on immigrants is taking the easy way out. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed.

gary4books

If the existing law were to be working, we would not need a border wall or have a "crisis on the border' or even have this "debate." As an exercise in quibbiling it has no match. But all observers will say our present immigration law is not what we want or need. We do bneed workers and immigration can keep our population younger. Do you want to be another Japan or even Russia or Europe?

bnick467

Very good commentary. Proponents of immigration spout so many lies about immigrants being "murders and rapists and gang members", the Faux News crowd doesn't realize that the vast majority of immigrants are good people just trying to get away from a terrible area trying to make a better life for themselves and their family. They contribute as much good to our society as those born here, and are treated like criminals when they try to do the right thing.

gabrielshorn2013

"Proponents of immigration spout so many lies about immigrants being "murders and rapists and gang members..."

Que? So the supporters of illegal immigration are lying, and the opponents are telling the truth?

hayduke2

Not proponents bnick - think you mean critics...

gabrielshorn2013

If, as the writer asserts, the construction company knowingly, willfully, and illegally hired ineligible undocumented workers, what we need is said construction company to be made an example of by prosecuting to the fullest extent of all applicable law. Major fines and jail time for those responsible for hiring decisions, who, in turn, will turn on their senior leadership who forced them to hire undocumented aliens. We also need those companies to hire experienced American citizens for those positions, and for the company to have experienced building engineers on site at all times. Imagine if this hotel had been completed and occupied! How many would have died in such a collapse then.

public-redux

Yup.

Another way to accomplish that is thru insurance companies. Make liability payouts contingent on the insured not having illegal workers. Make liability coverage itself contingent on an employer having a best efforts process for knowing whom it is hiring. And if the insured is some sort of limited liability company that has relatively few assets at risk, the insurance company might want to insist upon personal asset guarantees from the owners of the company.

gabrielshorn2013

That would certainly work public, as long as the owners cannot declare bankruptcy to protect those personal assets from confiscation. Requiring RealID or similar documents that only citizens can get when applying for work would help. Right now employers can just claim that the employee provided false documentation, and get away Scot-free.

hayduke2

Sure, except that doesn't seem to be the way it works. Rarely, if ever, do you see the company hiring said workers punished. Wonder why?

gabrielshorn2013

Yep, there is too much plausible deniability. Maybe it's time to issue ID cards as most other countries do. Hire someone without proper ID (RealID), and face the consequences. Photographing the license plates of those contractors picking up laborers in the Home Depot parking lot and forwarding to the appropriate authorities is a start.

BunnyLou

Fell 3 flights by swinging on a rope, sustained serious injury and was fishing 2 days later....I am sure Louisiana’s Fish and Game had this guy on their radar. How about he was just thinking the law doesn’t apply to him and he got caught. The rest of the story is BS, a good forensic engineer will be able to figure out what happened with or without him.

threecents

Bunny, You write good satire.

User1

Sure Three.....does the term “Outstanding Deportation Order” mean anything to you? It means he was already ordered to be deported. No big conspiracy theory here. He went in front of the cameras for his minute of fame and someone probably recognized him. And yea, fishing is good therapy for a traumatic injury. Funny how nobody pays any attention to the fact that he’s been here 18 years and has never tried to become “legal”. That says it all. Wonder whose social security number he’s been using?

hayduke2

Funny you didn't mention this part... "In 2016 a judge ordered Ramírez 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."

MD1756

Unless someone changed the article, there is no metion of "In 2016 a judge...." What is mentioned is that he had been here 18 years and only filed for a stay of deptation this year.

hayduke2

Google the name- several articles provide the quote from the lawyer

gabrielshorn2013

"Mr. Ramirez-Palma’s latest application for a stay of removal had already been denied by ICE on Oct. 3, more than a week before the incident cited by his supporters,” Cox said in an emailed statement."

www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/11/30/ice-deports-worker-considered-crucial-witness-hard-rock-hotel-collapse/%3foutputType=amp

Since he lost his appeal, it was only a matter of time before he was given the boot, hay. He now has a ten year exclusion period where he cannot even apply to come here legally. Coming back is a Federal felony, resulting in prison time followed by deportation.

https://immigration.findlaw.com/deportation-removal/illegal-reentry-into-the-u-s-after-removal-crime-and-punishment.html

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