EDITOR: In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forcibly incarcerating innocent Japanese-Americans during World War II was constitutional. That ruling in Korematsu v. the United States stood for almost 74 years, even though the conviction of the plaintiff, Fred Korematsu, was vacated in 1983, and Congress concluded that the decision to incarcerate was due to racism and war hysteria.
Japanese-Americans, like myself, have been waiting for that precedent to be overturned so that this couldn’t happen again to another marginalized group. On June 26 (“A ‘bittersweet’ ruling for Japanese survivors,” July 1), Chief Justice John Roberts said the court did just that, but it was embedded in the decision to uphold the travel ban on citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, “The Court redeploys the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu and merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”
This is in addition to the disgrace of forcibly separating children from their parents at the Mexican border and incarcerating them in the guise of national security. The parallels to the World War II incarceration are chilling. Instead of a victory for justice and cause for celebration, the overruling of Korematsu v. U.S. is an appalling setback and deeply ironic.