SHIPROCK, N.M. — In the fertile northeast corner of the Navajo Nation, fields that only months ago were traditional open-air corn farms are now stuffed with hundreds of industrial-sized greenhouses, each glowing with artificial lights and brimming with emerald cannabis plants. Security cameras ring the perimeters and hired guards in flak jackets patrol the public roads alongside the farms.
Every weekday throughout the summer, a group of local kids woke at sunrise and arrived at the farm by 7:30, ready for a 10-hour shift of hard labor under the high desert sun. Many were teenagers, 13- and 14-year-olds lured by offers of quick cash. A few were as young as 10.
Joining them were scores of foreign workers — an estimated 1,000 people, many of them Chinese immigrants brought to New Mexico from Los Angeles, according to Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco.
Seven-foot-tall black fencing shields the activities inside these greenhouses, but farm workers, neighbors and law enforcement officers have provided an inside view. Chinese managers oversee the day-to-day logistics, they say, bringing in diesel generators on freight trucks to power the greenhouses, installing dozens of cheaply built trailers to house the immigrant workers and drilling unpermitted wells to irrigate thousands of thirsty cannabis plants. [Read More @ SearchlightNM]