Z e t e o
Reading, Looking, Listening, . . . Questioning

Matt Taibbi’s Vision of Justice, Part II

Categories: Drew Whitcup, ZiR

downloadContinuing to read Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth GapI find myself looping back and rereading certain portions. The point of the book—and it’s far from subtly presented—is to show the contrast between the way our nation treats poor people charged with crimes and the way it treats those Taibbi has dubbed the “unarrestable class.” Each time Taibbi tells a detailed story about a bank’s top brass effectively stealing billions of dollars, for instance, I cannot help but reread the previous sections detailing the travails of the less fortunate, as if I need to see it again to believe it, given the context.

One section I’ve returned to more than once does not even involve crime, per se. Rather, it is a collection of stories Taibbi has compiled detailing the treatment of undocumented immigrants in parts of the southern United States. Gainesville, Georgia is one such place that Taibbi visited:

This small Georgia city is ground zero for enforcement of a ferocious immigration rule called 287(g) that essentially deputizes any and all state and local law enforcement officials to arrest undocumented aliens on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). TOday every local official with a badge—every cop, sheriff, ranger, or even game warden—has the power to instantly separate children from mothers, husbands from wives. All America, from the smallest town on up, has become a dragnet.

Taibbi tells horror stories about suspended driver’s licenses and fender benders that turned into prolonged federal detention and deportation proceedings. The rights granted to immigrants in these proceedings, he notes, are very limited. Even the judges who preside over them aren’t actual judges at all:

Immigration judges are actually employees of the Department of Homeland Security. In other words, they work for the same branch of government that prosecutes the cases.

Never losing sight of the stark contrast he seeks to unveil, Taibbi focuses on the numbers:

Three hundred ninety-six thousand, none hundred, and six people were deported from the United States in 2011. Of those, just over a thousand (1,119) had records for homicide, and just under six thousand (5,848) had convictions for sexual offenses. Roughly 80,000 more had other, lesser convictions for offenses like DUIs.

The overwhelming remainder were . . . guilty of little civil infractions, what immigration authorities term Level 3 offenses: traffic violations, immigration violations, and so on. In some communities, like Georgia’s Cobb County, 60 percent of all detainees were caught for traffic violations.

Meanwhile, not one single employee of any foreign bank—not one banker from Barclays, Deutsche Bank, RBS, Dexia, Société Générale, or any of the other numerous foreign banks that have been caught up in the many serious fraud and manipulation scandals in recent years—has yet been deported or jailed for any crime connected to the 2008 financial crisis.

Taibbi makes no secret of his thesis. In an effort to better understand the contrast he presents, I will focus next week on his detailed descritiption of one bank’s complex and brazen bid to steal $5 billion dollars. Spoiler alert: they succeed.

— Drew Whitcup, Zeteo Contributing Writer

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