HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. - Drug cartels are trafficking migrants to northern California and then forcing them to work on illegal marijuana farms. And these black market farms are producing cannabis that's tainted with toxins, and also threatening California's water supply. These are just a few of the far-reaching repercussions of the crisis at our southern border.
The impact of migrants pouring across the U.S. southern border is reaching here in Humboldt County, helping fuel a rise in illicit cannabis operations staffed by undocumented workers. Instead of escaping poverty and oppression, many migrants often find a rude awakening here in America.
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal tells CBN News, "So modern-day slavery is happening here. Labor trafficking is a major deal here when it comes to marijuana."
"This is still very much organized crime, and there are syndicates from all over the world here in California," Sheriff Honsal says. "And so they're bringing in their own labor and they're forcing them here to work against their will. And sometimes they're sold into sex slavery, sometimes they're used for labor."
The illegal marijuana grown here in California is a driver of 70% of all of the illegal marijuana consumed in the United States. It's also a driver of a whole lot of illegal migration to import workers for these farms.
But one of the biggest problems is that these illegal growers are using up a very precious resource – clean, clear, drinkable water – here in California as the state comes off a 100-year drought. These marijuana plants take a lot of water and they take a lot of this drinking water off the table for the consumers here in the Golden State.
John Nores, a retired lieutenant with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said, "Many states have regulated cannabis, but this is the illegal stuff that will never be allowed. It's on public and private land. It's not grown with permits. It's not organic. It has deadly pesticides on it, some of them so deadly they were banned by the EPA in America 20 years ago."
In addition to the health threat posed by these illegal pesticides, the men running these secret farms are often armed and aggressive.
"They're armed. They don't want to give up. In many times there's a lot of poisons that we run across and exposure could be deadly. And actually, in the private lands, it's even more dangerous because it's so much concentrated," Nores said.
The origin of these hidden operations traces back to a familiar evil south of the border.
"That isn't only a cannabis problem these cartels are part of. These cartels are also the same groups, if they're growing black market cannabis that's tainted with these toxins, they're also trafficking dirty fentanyl pills that are killing hundreds of thousands of Americans across the U.S.," Nores said.
Dealing with these issues daily, Sheriff Honsal believes he's in the right place.
"We see in Humboldt County in California good versus evil. We see the evil of child abuse, drugs of sex trafficking. We see people's worst days every single day. And we have a very difficult time sometimes dealing with that and coping with that. And I believe if you didn't have a Christ-centered life, you can't rationalize that. And if you're not focused on that, then I think you get lost and you truly don't have a mission. God has put me here and this is my mission and this is my mission field, the sheriff's office, the people of Humboldt County," Honsal said.