The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, to uphold President Trump’s travel ban. The latest iteration of the ban restricts travel against five majority-Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts explained that the ban is justified by national security concerns. While the court acknowledged Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, they refused to assume that was their intention behind the policy.
“We cannot substitute our own assessment for the Executive’s predictive judgments on such matters,” Roberts wrote.
Despite America’s tradition of embracing immigrants with open arms, our nation can look back at its long history and find many examples of excluding migrants by race.
In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese laborers from entering the country, the first time the United States blocked immigration by a specific racial or ethnic group.
Continuing the anti-Asian sentiment, the 1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan restricted Japanese immigration. The Immigration Act of 1917 created the “Asiatic Barred Zone,” preventing migrants from much of Asia and the Pacific Islands from entering the United States.
The Supreme Court also has a history of defending racism, one that the court repudiated this week. The 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, also citing national security concerns.
Granted, we are a different country today than we were in 1882, 1907 or 1944. But we can still take away lessons from our country’s legacy of excluding people we once thought were undesirable, dangerous or simply different.
The travel ban will hit Queens the hardest. Nearly half of our population is foreign-born, including neighbors who still have family in those restricted countries.
As a city, we must embrace our Muslim brothers and sisters, and support every effort to counter exclusionary policies moving forward.