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In Trump Travel Ban Case, Supreme Court Overturns Korematsu Decision Affirming FDR’S Japanese Internment Camps

The Supreme Court officially overturned a 1944 case affirming the right of then-President Franklin Roosevelt to forcibly relocate American citizens of Japanese descent to government-run internment camps.


The Supreme Court opinion upholding President Trump’s power to temporarily suspend immigration from several countries also formally overturned the 1944 ruling upholding an executive order to detain Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg invoked the infamous Korematsu v. United States case in their dissent, even though that particular case was not relevant to the court battle over President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending immigration from seven countries, including a handful of Muslim-majority countries.

“Today’s holding is all the more troubling given the stark parallels between the reasoning of this case and that of Korematsu v. United States,” Sotomayor wrote. “Although a majority of the Court in Korematsu was willing to uphold the Government’s actions based on a barren invocation of national security, dissenting Justices warned of that decision’s harm to our constitutional fabric.”

In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts swiftly knocked down the logical fallacy of comparing Trump’s travel ban to FDR’s executive order requiring internment camps based entirely on race:

Whatever rhetorical advantage the dissent may see in doing so, Korematsu has nothing to do with this case. The forcible relocation of U. S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority. But it is wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission.

“The entry suspension [ordered by Trump] is an act that is well within executive authority and could have been taken by any other President—the only question is evaluating the actions of this particular President in promulgating an otherwise valid Proclamation,” Roberts wrote on behalf of the majority.”

The chief justice then formally repudiated the 74-year-old ruling by citing a dissent to Korematsu by then-Justice Robert H. Jackson.

“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.'”