The Supreme Court just quietly overturned a decision that allowed the US government to place Japanese-Americans in 'concentration camps' during World War II

  • The Supreme Court just quietly overturned a decision that upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as part of a ruling upholding President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban that primarily targets majority-Muslim countries. 
  • In Tuesday's 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the president has broad authority to regulate immigration despite concerns that his travel ban unfairly targets Muslim countries. 
  • Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the dissenting opinion, contended the court was employing the "same dangerous logic underlying" the decision on the detainment of Japanese-Americans.

The Supreme Court just quietly overturned a decision that upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II as part of a ruling upholding President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban that primarily targets majority-Muslim countries. 

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led the US government to force more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent into detention camps. 

The decision overruled by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Korematsu v. United States, was centered around a man named Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American who refused to comply with the order. On December 18, 1944, the Supreme Court ruled it was a "military necessity" to detain people of Japanese descent during the war and argued the order was not based on race. 

Chief Justice John Roberts made it clear he disagrees with this assessment in the majority opinion on Trump's travel ban.  

"The forcible relocation of US citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race, is objectively unlawful and outside the scope of Presidential authority," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

"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,'" Roberts added. 

This was partially in response to the dissenting opinion from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which contended the ruling on Trump's travel ban has "stark parallels" with the "reasoning" behind the decision made regarding Korematsu.

"Today, the Court takes the important step of finally overruling Korematsu," Sotomayor added. "This formal repudiation of a shameful precedent is laudable and long overdue. But it does not make the majority's decision here acceptable or right."

Sotomayor went on to contend the court was redeploying "the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu" in upholding Trump's travel ban. She described the travel ban as a "discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group" that is being justified via a "superficial claim of national security."

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Toyo Miyatake stands in his children's bedroom looking at his young daughter drawing at a desk, while her mother stands behind her, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A marble monument with an inscription that reads, "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits," in the cemetary at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A mess line is formed in front of a building at midday at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A terra cotta frieze by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a Japanese American strawberry farmer, is seen at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa and a class of female students sit at a table looking at fashion magazines and patterns. The students are: Satoko Oka, Chizuko Karnii, Takako Nakanishi, Kikiyo Yamasuchi, Masako Kimochita, Mitsugo Fugi, Mie Mio, Chiye Kawase, and Miyeko Hoshozike, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A nurse tends to four infants in cribs at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in a field at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Origami cranes hang near a terra cotta frieze, by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a separated family at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura, holding hands with her two daughters, Joyce Yuki Nakamura and Louise Tami Nakamura, walk under a pavilion in a park at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ferries dock under mountain peaks of the distant Olympic Peninsula, on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A guard tower at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A view out of the window of the former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The cemetery at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp are seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A gravestone is seen in the cemetery at Manzanar internment camp in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
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Roberts vehemently disagreed with Sotomayor, arguing it's "wholly inapt to liken that morally repugnant order to a facially neutral policy denying certain foreign nationals the privilege of admission."

In Tuesday's 5-4 decision, which left justices sharply divided, the Supreme Court ruled the president has broad authority to regulate immigration despite concerns his travel ban unfairly targets Muslim countries. The court said the government had "set forth a sufficient national security justification" for the ban. 

The Trump administration has put forward three different versions of the travel ban, facing numerous legal hurdles along the way. The iteration upheld on Tuesday places travel restrictions on travelers from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, North Korea, and Venezuela.

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