Drugs that infiltrate the Southland don’t necessarily arrive from a tunnel that stretches from Mexico or a pontoon boat docked off a secluded portion of the Malibu coast. Drugs can also be brought to the Los Angeles and Orange County areas via the so-called friendly skies.

A Washington Post article1 reports that in April 2015, a man was detained by DEA agents at the Los Angeles International Airport, and asked a series of questions before the agents removed close to $31,000 in cash from him. Afterward, the man, Issa Serieh, was allowed to go on his way.

Never mind the randomness of this confrontation, or even what appears to be the bizarre robbery of a civilian by federal agents in an international airport. The larger picture here entails what sparked this event to begin with.

In short, it’s called the drug trade, and both Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as other major American cities such as New York, Washington D.C. and Houston have become leading focal points as to how drugs are transported, bought and sold throughout the nation.

While it was revealed that Serieh had a prior arrest earlier in 2015 for transporting 128 pounds of marijuana in Nebraska, a new light has been shone on the efforts by federal officials to grapple drug proliferation within America’s largest metropolises.

Increasingly, it seems this effort by law enforcement begins at the air travel level, with agents stationed in large airports to monitor passengers arriving from cities such as Chicago. And why Chicago? Because according to a complaint filed in September 2015 with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Chicago is a widely known consumer purchaser of narcotics in the U.S., and Los Angeles is a known source where narcotics can be purchased.

In addition to that, when spotted by agents as he left American Airlines flight number 2220, Serieh was observed as carrying “a small backpack over his shoulder,” which was a worthy enough sighting to warrant the DEA’s interception of Serieh.

Serieh has retained a lawyer and plans legal action against the DEA for stopping him and taking his money based solely on his physical appearance, i.e. profiling.


For years, Los Angeles has been profiled for its prolific need for and production of nearly every illicit drug available. But we’re not alone. Chicago is also profiled. So is New York, D.C. and Houston, just as was earlier said.

This type of profiling designates Los Angeles as a “High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area,”2 which according to the WhiteHouse.gov website states:

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug trafficking regions of the United States.

Essentially, Los Angeles needs this sort of attention as it remains a drug centerpiece. And as nearly 3 million people a year fly from Chicago to Los Angeles, sooner or later a drug buyer, seller, manufacturer, etc., is going to be caught. In short, what the DEA is doing is playing a game of chance with a broad sweep of authority.


While many applaud the efforts of government agencies such as the DEA to help mitigate Los Angeles’ long-standing issue with illegal substances, some fear that how that mitigation is arrived at is by a sweep that is far too broad.

While it is said that the War on Drugs appears to target minorities as well as those with low incomes more than any other portion of the American population, now it appears that the government’s effort to stem the drug epidemic has seeped into our travel plans. That now, if you have any sort of carry-on with you from a plane, you are examined much more intently once you step off a transnational flight to and from any city designated as an HIDTA.


With this, the question remains: Is law enforcement placing the proverbial ox before the cart in the case of airport profiling? All of us carry something onboard a flight, which is usually in the form of a backpack or a small foldable suitcase. We have laptops and other electronic devices inside these carry-ons. We can even have our entire packing of clothing and toiletries in these bags. So does that mean even if we don’t look the part, in the view of authorities, might we still play the part simply because of where we’re flying to or from and the luggage we carry?

In an answer, yes. Yes, because with close to 50,000 drug-induced deaths in this country, as well as a steady rise in drug-related homicides, agencies such as the DEA feel they need to step up. This is going on right now in Los Angeles.

To that end, L.A. remains a large and, due to a rather relaxed SoCal lifestyle, a soft target for the apprehension of controlled substances. The drugs don’t have to arrive or leave from here in more traditional manners such as by boat or tunnel. They can come and go by business or first class at 40,000 feet.

How illicit drugs circulate to and from L.A. isn’t the lion’s share of the DEA’s issue with marijuana and narcotic buying and selling. It’s that marijuana and narcotic buying and selling is occurring in the first place. And that is an occurrence federal agencies have vowed to stop, even if it is subliminally suggested that they will do so at the any-and-all-costs-level of profiling.

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  1. If you fly between Chicago and L.A., you might be a drug dealer, according to the DEA, Washington Post. Retrieved 2016.
  2. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA), White House. Gov. Retrieved 2016.





The 40,000-Foot High Drug Pipeline