Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Oregon) is pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland to address what appears to be “narco-slavery” linked to a multibillion-dollar illegal marijuana growing and human-trafficking crisis in Southern Oregon.
“Since this is a problem that affects more than my state of Oregon, we need to understand what the DOJ, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI are doing to help address this nationwide epidemic of lawlessness,” Bentz wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to Garland provided to The Epoch Times.
Bentz asked whether the Department of Justice views this crisis as one of its top priorities, what the department is doing to fight illegal cannabis grows conducted by transnational cartels in the United States, and whether the attorney general will direct the FBI and DEA to provide additional resources to affected counties in Oregon.
“Will the Department of Justice address and stop what appears to be ‘narco-slavery’ occurring in Southern Oregon?” he asked.
At least four counties in Southern Oregon are plagued by Mexican, Russian, and Chinese cartel activity, Bentz wrote.
According to local law enforcement officials, the cartels have set up cannabis “grows,” which are farmed by thousands of illegal aliens brought across the southern border. The activities generate billions of dollars of illegal revenue for cartels.
Local law enforcement estimates that the illegal operations generate $13.5 billion annually in just one of four affected counties.
In his letter, Bentz cited the DOJ’s “Cole Memorandum” as hindering enforcement by federal authorities in states such as Oregon that have legalized marijuana use. While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, enough states have legalized its production that federal law enforcement no longer prioritizes it in those states.
“The federal government’s decision to ignore illegal cannabis production, combined with the Administration’s lax border policies are resulting in a humanitarian disaster,” Bentz wrote.
“Oregon does not have the means to control the hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal cannabis grows,” Bentz said. “Likewise, the state cannot control the influx of immigrants, many pressed into forced labor, that the cartels use to operate.”
Local community members are being threatened, intimidated, and harassed by cartels, the congressman wrote.
Bentz met with law enforcement and elected leaders from Jackson and Josephine County on Oct. 14 and was briefed on the extent of the problem. The same day, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency.
“Three years of intensive effort is required to drive the narco networks out of our community and restabilize the situation,” the Josephine County Commissioners told Bentz in an Oct. 13 letter. “That timeline, though, depends on securing indictments as swiftly as possible.”
“To put it bluntly, Oregon needs help,” Bentz said.
The congressman requested that teams of up to 20 people be sent to each of the four affected counties. He asked that those teams help local law enforcement to identify and eradicate illegal grows and prosecute the criminals conducting them.
“Every day of inaction allows this crisis to spread and worsen,” his letter stated. “Your Department’s actions are essential to the safety and protection of Oregon.