On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which targets the Muslim majority nations of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. North Korea and Venezuela are also on the travel ban list, but the courts did not weigh in on the ban against these countries.
The verdict is disappointing but expected. What is surprising is that in its decision, the Supreme Court overturned the infamous verdict in the Korematsu v. United States case that created the legal framework to justify the internment of Japanese Americans in 1944.
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Until then, here are a few things on our minds about this week’s Supreme Court decision.
- Threat is defined by nationality and religious belief. The court’s decision sets up a dangerous precedent, argues Erwin Chemerinksy, the dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He writes in the Los Angeles Times, "Korematsu and now Trump vs. Hawaii represent the false assumption that danger to the nation can be determined by a person’s nationality or country of residence. In the United States, dangerousness should never be determined by race, ethnicity, national origin or country of residence.”
- Rising Islamophobia. A new report by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group finds that 1 in 5 Americans would deny Muslims citizenship in the United States. Meanwhile, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States rose 15 percent in 2017 and occurred at a rate of about one a day. It is unclear how this week’s decision will, if at all, impact Muslims in the United States. Needless to say, this decision comes at a time when American Muslims already feel vulnerable.
- Elections matter. The five judges who supported the travel ban all fell within party lines, with Democratic appointed judges being the lone dissenting voices. If Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, she would likely not have called for a travel ban, let alone nominated the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch, who supported Trump’s travel ban, to the bench.
- Sotomayor’s dissent is a work of genius. Justice Sotomayor did not mince words in her dissent, writing, “Taking all the relevant evidence together, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus, rather than by the Government’s asserted national-security justifications.” But as Vox noted, what may be more interesting is not what Sotomayor wrote but what she left out. Dylan Mathews writes, “Most of the time, Supreme Court dissents end, ‘I respectfully dissent.’ This time Sotomayor left off ‘respectfully.’ That might not seem like a lot, but it’s a signal of how profoundly distasteful she finds the majority’s judgment.”
- Korematsu v. United States has been repealed, sort of. Karen Korematsu, whose father was at the center of the 1944 case, said her heart sank when she heard the news of this week’s travel ban verdict: “To me, what the Supreme Court did was substitute one injustice for another.”