The horrors of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” enforcement policies against immigrants have been widely reported, but certainly bear repeating. There is the eponymous “zero-tolerance” Justice Department (DOJ) policy that instructs U.S. attorneys to prosecute first-time border crossers. The workplace raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that terrorize entire communities. The thousands of children who were separated from their parents as a result of the accelerated enforcement, hundreds of whom remain separated from their parents or relatives in spite of a court order requiring the administration to reunite families by July 26. It's a grotesque parody of a legal system these children endure, with toddlers as young as three forced to attend deportation proceedings alone.
This article first appeared on Salon.
Among the reasons the Trump administration gives for these brutal policies is that they are necessary for “restoring law and order” and “making America safe again.” But the “law and order” the president seeks to “restore,” does not seem to apply to violations committed by the corporate class, and the threats that America must be made “safe” from, apparently, do not include pollution, rip-offs and recklessness that are unleashed by deregulated corporate greed. Enforcement against corporate criminals and regulatory violations, a new Public Citizen report finds, has dramatically plummeted since Trump took office.
Public Citizen found that in 11 out of 12 agencies led by a Trump administration official for most of 2017, the dollar amount of penalties imposed on corporate violators dropped, in most cases by more than 50 percent.
At the DOJ, corporate penalties dropped 90 percent; at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), penalty amounts against all violators dropped by 94 percent.
Even those who did not expect robust corporate enforcement from President Donald Trump are shocked. When legendary academic and political dissident Noam Chomsky mentioned the report on Democracy Now!, he said the rollback in corporate enforcement the report revealed was so drastic, it was “almost comical.”
How can we make sense of this law enforcement disparity? Consider the two categories of people Trump surrounds himself with.
One category is the far-right ideologues, white nationalists and ultraconservative militants. It’s the Breitbart and Alex Jones wing of the Republican party. It includes anti-immigration ideologues like Stephen Miller and his former boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and recklessly hawkish figures like John Bolton. It includes infamous but erstwhile advisers like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.
These are the self-identified “deplorables,” and they seem to take delight in the way they alarm Democrats and moderate conservatives alike.
We have them to thank for this xenophobic and prejudiced “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
The second category is the corporate class, which consists of billionaires and CEOs. During Trump’s first year in office alone, he had triple the number of CEO meetings as Obama had over the course of seven years. Trump, a corporate executive himself, and the executives and former executives in his immediate circle include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, former adviser Carl Icahn, and intimate allies such as Las Vegas Sands’ Sheldon Adelson, Dow Chemical’s Andrew Liveris and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman.
Compared to the deplorables, they are sometimes portrayed as a positive influence on Trump. Some executives aligned with this camp, such as JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, have criticized Trump’s zero-tolerance approach to immigration.
We also have them to thank for the tax scam legislation that, while dribbling nary a trickle-down to working Americans, has spawned “eye-popping” multimillion-dollar payouts for the C-suite set.
These influences seem to have forged a demented law enforcement doctrine of treating immigrants like “animals” that “infest our country” — and corporations like people.
The result feels at once deeply offensive and disturbingly inevitable.