*This piece originally appeared in The Des Moines Register. Read the entire post here.
by Mark Kende, James Madison Chair in Constitutional Law, Director of the Drake University Constitutional Law Center
Few people know that Fred Korematsu, one of the named plaintiffs in perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court’s most troubling racist wartime decision, actually lived long enough to defend some Muslims who were deprived of due process under President George W. Bush. Perhaps there is a lesson here for President Donald Trump and the U.S. Supreme Court. Let me explain.
President Trump issued an executive order that precluded citizens from seven mainly Muslim nations to travel here, as well as invalidated many of their visas. He also banned admission of refugees who go through years of security screening. However, he provided a special exemption for persecuted Christians in these nations. Our country, founded in part on freedom of religion and on the promise of being a sanctuary, became the opposite. Trump enshrined Christianity as our preferred state religion in probable violation of several parts of the U.S. Constitution.
He justified the order on national security grounds and on the danger of “radical Islamic terrorism,” even though the vetting process for these individuals is thorough. Many of those affected sought to avoid being killed in the Syrian civil war or in other devastated places. Trump omitted from his ban the Muslim nations whose citizens were largely responsible for 9/11.
Coincidentally, Feb. 19 marks the 75th anniversary of another controversial presidential directive that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1944 decision, Korematsu v. United States. There, the court upheld the military incarceration of 112,000 American residents of Japanese descent, mostly citizens. They were interned in desolate camps. They had done nothing wrong. Nonetheless, the military enforced President Franklin Roosevelt’s broad executive order.