Chinese transnational criminal organizations are smuggling migrants into the U.S. and forcing them into indentured servitude where they must illegally grow marijuana in exchange for their passage. A special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) likened it to a new form of human trafficking.
DEA Special Agent Randy Ladd told NBC News Chinese crews cover the illegal immigrants’ cost of being smuggled from China into the U.S. by forcing them to work in marijuana grow houses in the Denver area. “It’s like indentured servitude,” Ladd told NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez in an interview. “It is a form of human trafficking.”
He said the Chinese migrants are flown from China to Belgium and then on to Mexico, where they make asylum claims at the border. He said the migrants then disappear before their scheduled immigration hearing to determine the validity of their claim of “credible fear.” Ladd explained they frequently find immigration fugitives when they raid the marijuana grow houses.
NBC News reported that Chinese, Cuban, and Mexican transnational criminal organizations are using states that legalized the production and sale of marijuana as a cover to illegally grow and traffic pot to points across the U.S. The groups will purchase or rent homes in states like California, Colorado, and Washington where they said enforcement of growing operations is hit-or-miss.
After purchasing or renting the homes, often in upscale neighborhoods, the drug rings will then move migrants into the homes to perform the growing and harvesting operations in exchange for being smuggled into the U.S.
Border Patrol officials told Breitbart Texas in the past that foreign nationals, other than Mexicans and Central American, will often pay between $15,000 and $25,000 to cartel-connected smugglers to get them into the U.S. Often, this money is not paid up front and the migrant is forced into some form of labor to pay off their debt.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in these states have recently stepped up their effort to crack down on underground grow operations.
In April, local and federal officials executed raids on 74 marijuana grow houses in the Sacramento area. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it “one of the largest residential forfeiture actions in American history” after the agents seized the home illegally used to grow the drugs.
Operations in California and Washington tend to be run by the Chinese transnational criminal organizations while Colorado is seeing an influx of Cuban and Mexican-led cartels, El Paso, Colorado, County Sheriff Bill Elder told NBC News.
“They have found that it’s easier to grow and process marijuana in Colorado, ship it throughout the United States than it is to bring it from Mexico or Cuba,” Elder told the reporter.
The criminal organizations not only benefit from being able to hide in plain sight in states with legalized marijuana laws, but they profit from trafficking in the labor to carry out the operations.