Peter Irons: ‘Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling must not repeat errors of Japanese internment’

The San Francisco Chronicle published an op-ed by Prof. Peter Irons in its June 13, 2018, edition. Prof. Irons is the author of “Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases.” A member of the Supreme Court bar, he represented Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi in the successful suits to vacate their wartime convictions. He is a professor of political science, emeritus, at UC San Diego.

In his oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court defending the Trump administration’s travel ban in April, Solicitor General Noel Francisco relied on national security as a principal justification for the ban — and as a shield against judicial scrutiny. This was a shrewd legal tactic. Throughout history, the Supreme Court has shown tremendous deference to the executive branch on issues of national security. Yet the nine justices considering the travel ban in these closing days of the court’s term would be wise to reflect on the tragedies that blind deference to national security wrought in our country’s all-too-recent history.

The parallels between the cases challenging the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the travel ban case are both striking and disturbing. Both arose out of war and involved orders of the commander in chief. Both targeted a minority group, amid fears of sabotage and espionage, and of “terrorist” attacks on our soil. And both featured a hidden report, withheld from the court.

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