WASHINGTON – A Chinese immigrant is facing drug charges after two unrelated raids in New Mexico uncovered a marijuana processing operation, a network of purported hemp farms, and dozens of Chinese immigrants who had been laboring amid tons of marijuana.
The workers discovered in raids in October and November came from the Los Angeles area, Chicago and elsewhere. They had responded to help-wanted ads for agricultural work. Their presence in the flourishing marijuana industry illustrates what happens when the service jobs most often held by new immigrants evaporate in the pandemic, creating a situation ripe for exploitation of workers by recruiters and employers.
“Everyone is laid off from the restaurants,” one Chinese worker told Searchlight New Mexico, an investigative journalism website. “How else am I going to put food on the table for my family?”
Of the dozens of Chinese workers arrested in two raids, only one, Guoyun Liao, faces charges. They stem from a raid on October 8 in Farmington, New Mexico. Charges against the other workers were dismissed.
According to court documents reviewed by VOA, the charges recorded immediately after the raid include trafficking in controlled substances and conspiracy to commit distribution of a controlled substance. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 19 in the Farmington/Aztec District Court, according to court documents.
Published: January 25, 2021