Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans puts spotlight on undocumented workers

Having helped rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, many under threat of deportation.

December 18, 2019 |

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The collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans earlier this year has shed light on the plight of undocumented construction workers.

Three workers were killed after the structural failure. One survivor, an undocumented worker who had tried to warn supervisors about safety concerns, was subsequently deported to Honduras.

A 2006 academic study found about half of the New Orleans reconstruction workforce was Latino, with about half of that group being undocumented. To speed up construction after the storm, the federal government suspended enforcement of employee eligibility checks by employers and some workplace protection measures.

This resulted in widespread worker exploitation including wage theft, underpayment of wages, and abuse of employees, according to a report in The Guardian. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had a steady rate of deportations under President Obama, but the current administration’s aggressive crackdown on immigration and asylum seekers has raised the level of fear among the Latino population in New Orleans.

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