Opinion: Whistleblowing Is a Defense of Democracy, Not a Capital Offense

If you’re an immigrant, you have known blistering rhetoric and tweets for three years. You’ve lived with anti-immigrant policies that are so cruel and extreme that if anything in this world was made for a string of expletives, it’s the Miller-Trump anti-immigrant program.

If you’re the Whistleblower whose complaint opened up the Ukraine investigation, Donald Trump has had you on the brain, as have the drunken frat boys led by Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz.

Throughout the impeachment proceedings thus far, the only thing Republicans cared about was doxing the Whistleblower, whose report has largely if not completely been corroborated and then some by multiple other witnesses – including the ones Republicans were certain would exonerate Trump.

The people who blow the whistle on government corruption have legal protections that include anonymity. This is because those in authority have a tendency to take their frustrations out on those who exposed their corruption and other wrong doing.

There are people who blow the whistle on corrupt and illegal business practices, like cutting corners in the construction of buildings to the point of compromising safety.

If you’re both an immigrant and a whistleblower, Donald Trump and friends have an extra weapon in their arsenal: deportation. There’s a man who was deported to Honduras last week who can tell you all about it. Even FOX reported the story with the same fact pattern reported  by other news outlets, so there’s no calling “fake news” on this story.

Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma was deported to Honduras on Friday, when most of us were recovering from turkey hangovers.

His lawyers claim, Palma was targeted because he blew the whistle.  ICE spokesman Bryan D, Cox, denied the allegation, according to reporting by The Washington Post.

Cox called claims that Palma was targeted for speaking out about the conditions at the construction site “false” and “wildly irresponsible.”

“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.

Yes, Palma was an undocumented construction worker, who was injured during the Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans.  Despite his own precarious status, Palma tried to save lives by telling his supervisor about construction issues.

When he was deported, Palma still had injuries from that hotel’s collapse. Injuries that needed medical treatment which he probably won’t get. He is leaving behind his wife, three children and the life he had in New Orleans for the past 18 years.

I get that minds will close because Palma was undocumented. I’m hoping that most will remain open to consider just who really benefits from undocumented immigration, because Palma’s story tells us who benefits, how they benefit and why people like Donald Trump not only exploit undocumented immigrants for political purposes but also exploit them on multiple levels for business purposes.

Before the hotel collapsed, Palma reported the dangers with that hotel to his supervisors. He did that despite his legal status and despite the prospect of being deported. (This is worth remembering the next time one of Trump’s sycophants asks for sympathy because they’re scared his mean tweets might get them primary challenged and they might have to find work in the private sector.)

Management didn’t heed Palma’s warnings. The result is three people dead and dozens injured, including Palma, who survived a fall from the ninth floor to the sixth by swinging from a rope.

His injuries included head trauma and internal inflammation, and he still requires surgery for an acute eye injury.

Palma was interviewed by a Spanish-speaking media outlet immediately after the hotel’s collapse and was arrested by immigration authorities two days later. According to media reports, he was fishing with his family at the time.
So many of the anti-immigrant tropes were dispelled in Palma’s story – beginning with the malarkey that immigrants don’t want to work; they just want handouts.

But, the story here is about what Trump and company are doing to whistleblowers and why that matters when taken with attacks on press freedom, or even freedom to have different opinions within the Republican Party.

Democracy doesn’t just die overnight and it’s never death by a single blow. It’s always death by a thousand cuts below the surface long before the frontal assault on co-equal branches of government and the rule of law.

It starts with silencing the people best positioned to learn about corruption in government and to do something about it. That’s the civil servants whom Trump has attacked with poisonous rhetoric and references to the sinister-sounding “Deep State”. That’s oversight by one or both other co-equal branches of government. When oversight is obstructed, be it by witness intimidation or perjury, it’s one of thousand cuts that lead to the death of democracy.

The culture of oppression begins with silencing and intimidating whistleblowers like Palma, though we’re more likely to first hear about people like the whistleblower who told about Trump’s attempt to bribe and extort “opposition research” from Ukraine in exchange for weapons and aid previously allocated by Congress.

Palma is a double bonus target because as an undocumented immigrant, he was a lesson to other undocumented immigrants on what happens if you report anything to the authorities, be it shoddy construction, wage theft, or a hostile work environment.

If undocumented immigrants get the idea they actually have rights, that takes the fun out of hiring them for less than minimum wage and imposing harsh work conditions. And, of course, it says that part of recrimination to immigrants who blow the whistle, regardless of status, is deportation.

We need a whistleblower’s bill of rights, be it for those who expose government corruption or those who expose corrupt and dangerous business practices. They must be able to come forward without fear of reprisals ranging from losing their jobs, gangs with pitchforks attacking them, their families and those who seek to protect them and deportation to dangerous places that amount to certain death.

Whistleblowing is a capital defense of democracy, not a capital offense.