top of page

Children of Hirabayashi, Yasui, Korematsu: Supreme Court Decision in Travel Ban Case Repeats History

Karen Korematsu (left), Holly Yasui, and Jay Hirabayashi on a panel at the 2013 JANM National Conference. (Photo via

WASHINGTON — The children of Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu are exceedingly disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Tuesday in Trump v. Hawaii, which challenged the Muslim travel ban.

In their amicus brief before the court, Jay Hirabayashi, Holly Yasui and Karen Korematsu opposed the administration’s travel ban, pointing to the unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as an urgent warning against presidential powers run amok.

The court, in its decision, overruled its 1944 Korematsu v. United States decision upholding the “forcible relocation of U.S. citizens to concentration camps, solely and explicitly on the basis of race.”

“The dissent’s reference to Korematsu, however, affords this Court the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: 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,” the decision read.

That formal judicial rejection of the mass racial removal and incarceration is long overdue, but the court left standing the second pernicious dimension of its World War II Korematsu ruling, according to Hirabayashi, Yasui and Korematsu.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor highlighted in dissent that the court majority rubber-stamped the government’s bald assertions that the “immigration travel ban” is justified by national security. Citing the 1984 reopening of Korematsu that found “manifest injustice,” she criticized the majority for “blindly accepting the government’s misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group.”

In American democracy, the “Constitution demands…a judiciary willing to hold the coordinate branches to account when they defy our most sacred legal commitments,” she said.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today reaffirms that despite 75 years, xenophobia still reigns true in our country,” said Jay Hirabayashi, son of Gordon Hirabayashi, Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). “I’m incredibly disappointed that the Supreme Court continues to protect presidents’ action to target individuals who may look or pray differently from us.”

Gordon Hirabayashi, Minoru Yasui and Fred Korematsu in a publicity shot for Steven Okazaki’s documentary “Unfinished Business.”

“My father dedicated his life to defending the human and civil rights of all people after he and over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed and imprisoned based on racist arguments of ‘military necessity’ during World War II,” said Holly Yasui, daughter of Minoru Yasui, Yasui v. United States, 320 U.S. 115 (1943). “Today’s decision in Trump v. Hawaii signals that our country is repeating history. Again, our court has allowed executive power to go unchecked even though the Muslim travel ban and other immigration policies have clear antecedents of religious and racial animus, as was the case in 1942. We need to continue to fight for justice. We must never give up!”

“Yet again, I am disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision. The travel ban is unjust and singles out individuals due to the religion they practice, similar to Executive Order 9066 that unconstitutionally imprisoned my father due to his Japanese ancestry,” said Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred T. Korematsu, Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944). “In Korematsu v. United States, the court ruled against my father, a decision that constitutional scholars, on both sides of the aisle, have continued to criticize.

“Although the court overruled my father’s case in the decision [this week], it did so by creating another bad decision. I am more motivated to continue my work as executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute to educate, advocate and protect our civil liberties.”

In a recent op-ed, Peter Irons, one of the members of the coram nobis legal team in the 1980s that reopened the wartime cases, remarked that “[t]he parallels between the cases challenging the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the travel ban case are both striking and disturbing. Both arose out of war and involved orders of the commander-in-chief. Both targeted a minority group, amid fears of sabotage and espionage, and of ‘terrorist’ attacks on our soil. And both featured a hidden report, withheld from the court.”

For more information, visit

0 views0 comments


bottom of page