The Supreme Court Got It Wrong, Again

In today’s ruling upholding the Muslim Ban, the Supreme Court is repeating the mistakes it made in defending the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII.

With the hindsight of history, Chief Justice Roberts acknowledges that the forced removal of 110,000 Japanese Americans to concentration camps was solely and explicitly based on race and that this is clearly unlawful. Roberts uses this accurate historical perspective as a reason to overturn Korematsu, but his words are directly contradicted by the Trump administration’s actions and the Court’s decision to defend them.

During WWII, the government used the weakly constructed façade of “military necessity” to claim that their actions against Japanese Americans were not motivated by race, ethnicity or national origin—despite all evidence to the contrary. It took over 40 years for the government to admit that there was no military necessity and that Japanese American incarceration was actually motivated by “war hysteria, racial prejudice, and a failure of political leadership.”

Today, the government is once again deploying the specter of “national security” to justify the travel ban and hide their well-documented animus towards Muslims.

And we’re not falling for it.

The Supreme Court finally, after nearly 75 years, repudiating Korematsu should have been a moment to celebrate—but we take no joy in an empty token of recognition that comes at the expense of our Muslim brothers and sisters. Real victory is rejecting Korematsu in actions, not words. We will continue to speak out and hold this administration accountable to their actions as they justify their bigotry behind the false premise of national security.

By Densho Director Tom Ikeda

[Header photo: Tom Ikeda speaks at a CAIR Washington press rally on the steps of the Nakamura Courthouse in downtown Seattle, June 26, 2018]

    • 28/06/2018 at 1:15

    I’m sorry but Densho but I believe you are wrong and it’s unfair and misguided to speak out as though your beliefs represent all Japanese Americans! I hear the internment of Japanese Americans being compared to the detention of immigrants caught breaking the law trying to enter our country illegally. Their detention was a known possibility when they made the decision to attempt to enter the country without going through a port of entry legally. The United States of America has borders and has laws as to how, when and where you can cross into the United States. These people being detained did not respect our laws and attempted to enter illegally and were caught and detained. How does that equate to Japanese Americans being rounded up and detained when they were legal residents, US citizens and law abiding? They broke no law! There is NO equivalency and to say so is an insult to our ancestors who took being “law abiding and contributing members” seriously!
    With respects to the travel ban we are also talking about a temporary restriction of entry from 7 countries, not all Muslim countries! Sure, I heard what President Trump said about “Muslims”, but after backlash the restriction was narrowed and widened by one factor. That factor was the originating country’s ability and willingness to comply and satisfy an identity-management and information sharing system. Why is it wrong to want to know who we are allowing into our country? To ignore this is intellectually dishonest and to the heart of the ban. And to say that it’s “ok”to not know who is entering is irresponsible by the person we elected to keep us safe! The narrative is it’s a “Muslim” ban. The truth is, it’s not! Fact: it does not affect “Muslims” from countries outside of these 7 nations from receiving visas and entering our country!
    I’m tired of the false comparisons for the injustice done to my parents and grandparents! I’m a proud product of the greatest generation of Japanese Americans! I know they endured and fought to prove their loyalty to this great nation. Respecting laws and supporting policies to keep our country safe was paramount to who they were! When a class of residents and citizens who have broken no laws are rounded up just because of the color of their skin, I will be there in protest and I know they will be with me in spirit! Until then, I will not denigrate their experience and falsely equate it where it does not belong!

  1. Nina Wallace
    • 28/06/2018 at 22:49

    Hi Mitchell,

    You’re right that this current situation is not identical to our own community’s history. But the bottom line is that children and families are being indefinitely detained without due process, and immigrants are being maligned and excluded based on their country of origin. Those are similarities we can’t ignore. Looking at our own history, the road to Japanese American incarceration was paved with rhetoric about a “Jap tidal wave” and discriminatory laws targeting Issei immigrants very similar to what we are witnessing today. The round-up of Japanese American families during WWII was the end result of decades of anti-Japanese agitation — and could have been prevented if allies had spoken up sooner. If we wait for these parallels to become an exact mirror of each other, if we wait until the army is literally marching US citizens off to camps at gunpoint, it will be too late. We choose to honor our family members who were targeted during WWII by being the allies they needed back then.

    (And while we’re on this topic, you might be interested to learn that many Japanese immigrants were not, in fact, legal residents. You can read more about the similarities between “illegal” Issei and undocumented immigrants today in Brian Niiya’s recent post:

    • 29/06/2018 at 7:34

    I agree with Mitchell. There is no comparison of the internment of law abiding Japanese people with the detainment of people trying to enter our country illegally. The issue of seperating the children from thier parents is unfortunate but the blame should be on the parents for putting thier children in that situation. Children in this country are separated from their parents every day due to court orders or from the incarceration of the parents. No one seems to care about these children. So Densho does not speak for all Japanese Americans.

    • 29/06/2018 at 12:55

    It is 100% legal to seek asylum. This idea of “illegal” vs. “legal” should be totally transparent especially to Asians who were LEGALLY EXCLUDED FROM IMMIGRATING ON THE BASIS OF RACE. This reader is, unfortunately, very misinformed and would benefit from learning about how racism and nativism and xenophobia work through us sometimes.

    • 29/06/2018 at 20:50

    I am issei. I appreciate Tom’s statement and Densho’s point of view on Korematsu. Further, we should continue to be a thorn in the side of America’s complacency until Korematsu is no only repudiated but overturned. The begrudging acknowledgement of America’s endemic racism needs to be celebrated and relentlessly pursued. It is honorable to be civil, but it is dishonorable to allow injustice to take place and be silent.

    • 29/06/2018 at 20:53

    I meant to say Nisei not issei.

    • 07/07/2018 at 23:42

    I am a Japanese American, a sansei born in the Tule Lake Segregation Center in 1944, as such, a child prisoner. My family was incarcerated for 4 1/2 years. Densho/Tom Ikeda speaks for me and my family. Thank you, Tom.
    Just back from the Tule Lake Pilgrimage joined by 400 pilgrims:

    • 18/08/2018 at 3:30

    I am a Japanese American, the son of a man born in the Heart Mountain Relocation Center. Tom speaks for me and my family as well. Thank you, Tom!

    To argue that the Court’s upholding of the travel ban isn’t based on religious or ethnic prejudice and bigotry (despite the President’s original statements) simply because the (now thrice rewritten order) restricts to country of origin rather than religious belief or ethnic origin, is as ridiculous as saying that the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII wasn’t based on racial prejudice because not all Japanese Americans were relocated — just those living on the West Coast, and not those in Hawaii.

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