A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Hard Rock Hotel Collapse Postscript

In the closing statement of my last post on this issue, we said, “Meanwhile, Rameriz (Palma} may or may not be headed back to Honduras, and the investigation of the collapse continues.”

The day after Thanksgiving, according to reporting in the Associated Press and reposted in (Engineering News Record), ICE deported Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma from a detention facility in Central Louisiana back to Honduras. The move disappointed investigators on the partial collapse of the under-construction Hard Rock Hotel on the edge of the French Quarter in New Orleans and devastated his family and the other members of the Honduran community in New Orleans.

Not only had Ramirez Palma been injured in the collapse, but the “admittedly undocumented” worker, had supposedly been telling his supervisors that there was shoddy construction on the build, that the floors were not stable, that the temporary scaffolding supporting additional floors either under construction or curing was being overstressed and all those issues were making his job as a window installer extra difficult and possibly putting the workers on the site in danger at the same time.

His supervisors reportedly told him to stay quiet and get his work done, but his wife told reporters that he had complained to her and that he was worried about the build and its safety for the workers on site.

He had pictures on his phone, but that phone and the pictures that might have helped in the forensic reconstruction of the causes of the collapse disappeared when ICE arrested him on an outstanding issue. One can only hope that the pictures on the phone were turned over to the investigative team for their use.

After the collapse and Ramirez Palma’s release from the hospital, he was interviewed on Spanish speaking television and reported, according to an article in The Guardian, to the OSHA “whistleblowers” about what he had seen and how he escaped the collapse. Even though the whistleblowers were to protect the whistleblower, ICE overruled them and deported him.

Ramirez Palma had lived in New Orleans for 18 years and had worked in construction during that time. He was married with three children and he is now in Honduras after his deportation.

His story is typical of the large number of illegal immigrants who live and work in New Orleans, who moved there after the Katrina flood to tear down and rebuild the city when thousands of residents abandoned the toxic houses and businesses. The immigrants were called into action and worked on construction as day or contract workers. It appears that a number of them were at work on the construction of the Hard Rock Hotel on the day that it collapsed injuring over 30 and killing 3. Two of the victims killed in the collapse are still buried in the rubble on the site awaiting the demolition of the remaining building in January and whose families are waiting to recover their bodies for proper burial.

This tragedy points again to the immigration issue that must be brought to the surface for an honest and truthful discussion and ultimately a workable policy that will allow for a reasoned solution to the skilled workforce issue that will impede economic growth over the next decade. You can see more about the immigration issue on our posts and on the Rational Middle site.