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Chinese Immigrant Workers Sue over Forced Labor at Illegal Marijuana Operation on Navajo Land

September 28, 2023 (1 min read)

Susan Montoya Bryan, Rio Yamat, Associated Press, Sept. 27, 2023

"Chinese immigrant workers allege they were lured to northern New Mexico under false pretenses and forced to work 14 hours a day trimming marijuana on the Navajo Nation where cultivating the plant is illegal, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in state court.  Job advertisements for the operation in Shiprock promised $200 per day, housing and food in exchange for “gardening” and “flower cutting.” But when the workers arrived in New Mexico, the complaint says, their phones and car keys were taken away, they were barred from leaving and, in some instances, family members were separated.  In a statement Wednesday, lawyers for the 15 workers said their clients were treated like animals and commended their bravery for coming forward. ... The lawsuit names as defendants Navajo businessman Dineh Benally and Irving Lin, a Taiwanese entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. It also names associates of Benally and Lin, as well as businesses linked to the farming operation, which authorities say ballooned to nearly two dozen farms and more than 1,100 greenhouses spread across 400 acres (162 hectares)."