Judge Compares Trump Travel Ban To WWII Internment Of Japanese-Americans

May 15, 2017

As the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against President Donald Trump’s travel ban, the subject of an executive order issued by President Franklin Roosevelt more than 70 years ago came up.  The court is considering whether to uphold an injunction on the ban issued by a federal judge in Hawaii.

Arguing for the state of Hawaii, Neal Katyal said the travel ban, which blocks travelers from six mostly Muslim countries, discriminates against people because of their religion.

But Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall said it does not amount to singling out a religious group because it contains no reference to Islam.

That prompted Judge Richard Paez to point out that President Franklin Roosevelt’s executive order that was used to put 110,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps didn’t actually mention Japanese heritage either. Wall insisted the two are not comparable.

But Katyal picked up the point during his argument against the travel ban. 

The hearing was taking place in the William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse in Seattle, named in 2001 for a Japanese-American Medal of Honor winner from World War II.

Katyal said there are important lessons to learn from the past, then recalled what happened to the late Gordon Hirabayashi, who in the 1940s challenged the Japanese internment order in the same courthouse.

“This very courthouse which tried, convicted and later exonerated. Gordon Hirabayashi stands as a physical reminder of what is at stake,” said Katyal.  

Interestingly, at the moment this was being said in the federal courthouse, just blocks away the King County Council was unveiling a plaque to remember Gordon Hirabayashi to, according to a news release, “honor his faith in the Constitution and ... remind ourselves of the importance of protecting our principles.”