A 5-4 Supreme Court decision Tuesday to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban has overturned another ruling from nearly 74 years ago that said an executive order to detain Japanese Americans in incarceration camps during World War II was constitutional, according to one law school professor.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, made it clear that the court viewed the ability to regulate immigration as squarely within a president's powers and he rejected critics' claims of anti-Muslim bias.
But in that opinion, Roberts also called out the dissent for invoking a 1944 landmark ruling, Korematsu v. United States, that upheld President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order authorizing the relocation of anyone considered a national threat to security during the Second World War.
In its wake, some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry — nearly 70,000 of them American citizens — were rounded up and moved from the West Coast to fenced-in, guarded incarceration camps further inland.
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Jerome A. Cohen, a law professor at NYU School of Law and former Supreme Court clerk for Chief Justice Earl Warren — who was attorney general of California when Roosevelt’s executive order was made — told NBC News this was the most “express repudiation one could expect from the Supreme Court.”
“It has overturned Korematsu, definitively,” he said.