Don Tamaki from the #StopRepeatingHistory campaign spoke August 9, 2018, at a San Francisco Japantown community gathering to address issues such as family separations at the border, the Muslim ban, and racial and religious scapegoating. (Photos by Bob Hsiang.)
Here are Don’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
In June, by a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court in Trump v. Hawaii upheld the “Travel Ban,” barring entry of people from certain Muslim-majority countries.
Invoking “national security,” the government claimed that a Homeland Security report justified detaining U.S. residents having nothing to do with terrorism, separating families, and canceling the validly issued visas of refugees running for their lives.
However, not only did the government refuse to reveal this report, it also asserted that the Court must bow to the will of the President, giving him near-absolute authority to impose, in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s words, “an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion.”
Citing Trump’s speeches and tweets replete with anti-Islamic animus and calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” critics said that the Travel Ban has little to do with security, but instead, was the bigoted “Muslim Ban” that Trump had promised his base.
Echoes of 1942 when 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Against the challenge of Fred Korematsu, the government exhorted the Court to take the government’s word for it that Japanese Americans posed a danger to the nation and must be locked up. Shamefully, the Court complied, asking no probing questions, and abdicating its role as a check and balance on the Executive Branch. The result was a civil liberties disaster.
The gravity of the Court’s surrender was underscored 40 years later, when secret WWII-era intelligence reports and Justice Department documents surfaced admitting that Japanese Americans had committed no wrong, posed no threat, and characterizing the Army’s claims that Japanese Americans were spying as “intentional falsehoods.” These reports were never presented to the Court, having been suppressed, altered or destroyed.
Fast forward to the Court’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii wherein Chief Justice John Roberts declared: “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.”
But in the same breath, Roberts dismissively concludes that Korematsu has nothing to do with the Travel Ban. Worse, despite Trump’s overtly anti-Muslim statements, Roberts accepts the government’s word for it that targeting travelers from Muslim-majority countries is necessary for the nation’s safety, without requiring the government to disclose the official report claimed to be the factual basis for the ban.
Sotomayor described the Court’s “blind” deference to the President as an affront to the Judiciary’s role as the independent third branch in our checks-and-balances democracy, urging “Our Constitution demands, and our country deserves, a Judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred commitments.”
The parallels between Korematsu and the Travel Ban are disturbing: both arose out of war, both featured the government invoking “national security” to shield its actions from judicial scrutiny, both had abundant evidence of prejudice expressed by high officials against a targeted minority, both involved hidden intelligence reports that the government refused to disclose, and both ended with the Court failing to question whether such sweeping deprivations of fundamental freedoms were necessary for the nation’s safety, or were merely the fulfillment of racist policies and bigoted campaign promises.
Evermore emboldened, Trump has tweeted –“no due process” –for undocumented immigrants, including those lawfully seeking asylum. So even Laura Bush is connecting the dots, stating: “Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities… These images are eerily reminiscent of the internment camps for U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.”
If neither the Courts nor Congress has the will to hold this President accountable to the Rule of Law, and if the People no longer have a common understanding of what “facts” are due to Trump’s assault on journalists daring to expose the truth—Folks—this is how dictators get started.
What are we to do? Well, speechifying is not going to get the job done. Here’s one example of actions that people can take—Get involved in key swing, battleground districts. I realize that most of us cannot travel to the Central Valley, or Southern California, Florida, or the Midwest to register voters or do voter education.
But we can give and raise money. You have $25? Throw a party for you and your friends—ask for $25 each–$5 for the booze, and $20 to support door to door voter registration and education.
Yes, this takes commitment, it takes sacrifice, it takes some pain, and to be sure, it will take some of your time.
But the country is going in a dangerous direction— history is repeating itself—
And know that in making things right— nothing is free.
Remember the words of Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has and it never will. You may not get all that you pay for this in this world, but you must certainly pay for all that you get.”
So today, we’re making a down payment for Justice.
Are you with me?
We’re going to do what generations have done before us—
But also do the work necessary to change this culture—
Change hearts and minds—
And take our country back from the brink.
There is no time to lose.
Doing nothing is not an option.
Let’s get busy.