Hirabayashi, Yasui, Korematsu Warn Supreme Court Decision in Travel Ban Case Repeats History

Jay Hirabayashi, Holly Yasui, and Karen Korematsu Warn Supreme Court Decision in Trump v. Hawaii Travel Ban Case Repeats History

WASHINGTON—The children of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu are exceedingly disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, which challenged the Muslim travel ban.

Simply put, the high court got it wrong, and much remains to be done in challenging the government’s actions.

In their amicus brief before the Court, Jay Hirabayashi, Holly Yasui and Karen Korematsu opposed the administration’s travel ban, pointing to the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as an urgent warning against presidential powers run amok.

The Court, in its decision, overruled its 1944 Korematsu v. United States decision upholding the “forcible relocation of U.S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race.”

“The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—“has no place in law under the Constitution.” Trump v. Hawaii, Slip opinion at 38.

That formal judicial rejection of the mass racial removal and incarceration is long overdue.

Nevertheless, the Court left standing the second pernicious dimension of its World War II Korematsu ruling. As Justice Sotomayor highlighted in dissent, the Court majority rubber stamped the government’s bald assertions that the “immigration travel ban” is justified by national security. Citing the 1984 reopening of Korematsu that found “manifest injustice,” she criticized the majority for “blindly accepting the Government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group.” In our democracy, the “Constitution demands…a judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision today reaffirms that despite 75 years, xenophobia still reigns true in our country,” said Jay Hirabayashi, son of Gordon Hirabayashi, Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). “I’m incredibly disappointed that the Supreme Court continues to protect presidents’ action to target individuals who may look or pray differently from us.”

“My father dedicated his life to defending the human and civil rights of all people after he and over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed and imprisoned based on racist arguments of ‘military necessity’ during World War II,” said Holly Yasui, daughter of Minoru Yasui, Yasui v. United States, 320 U.S. 115 (1943). “Today’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii signals that our country is repeating history. Again, our Court has allowed executive power to go unchecked even though the Muslim travel ban and other immigration policies have clear antecedents of religious and racial animus, as was the case in 1942. We need to continue to fight for justice. We must never give up!”

“Yet again, I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision. The travel ban is unjust and singles out individuals due to the religion they practice, similar to Executive Order 9066 that unconstitutionally imprisoned my father due to his Japanese ancestry,” said Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred T. Korematsu, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). “In Korematsu v. United States, the Court ruled against my father, a decision that constitutional scholars, on both sides of the aisle, have continued to criticize. Although the Court overruled my father’s case in the decision, it only motivate me more to continue my work as Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to educate, advocate and protect our civil liberties.”

As recently remarked in an op-ed by Peter Irons, one of the members of the coram nobis legal team in the 1980s that reopened the WWII cases, “[t]he 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.”