Sonia Sotomayor Reads the Supreme Court’s Travel-Ban Decision for Filth

Illustration for article titled Sonia Sotomayor Reads the Supreme Court’s Travel-Ban Decision for Filth
Photo: Allison Shelley (Getty Images)

In a 5-4 decision delivered Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting Muslim-majority countries. In doing so, the majority wrote off the president’s own anti-Muslim statements—comments he’s been making since 2011, which ramped up during his presidential campaign.


Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion in Trump v. Hawaii (pdf), claimed that the revised policy, which cites security concerns and includes North Korea and Venezuela on its list of banned countries, is “facially neutral” to religion and race.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor was having exactly none of that shit. In a fiery dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sotomayor calls out the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Supreme Court ruling, using Trump’s own words.


Here’s her opening paragraph, according to Vox, which is worth reading in full:

The United States of America is a Nation built upon the promise of religious liberty. Our Founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment. The Court’s decision today fails to safeguard that fundamental principle. It leaves undisturbed a policy first advertised openly and unequivocally as a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” because the policy now masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns. But this repackaging does little to cleanse Presidential Proclamation No. 9645 of the appearance of discrimination that the President’s words have created. Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus. That alone suffices to show that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their Establishment Clause claim. The majority holds otherwise by ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent, and turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the Proclamation inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens. Because that troubling result runs contrary to the Constitution and our precedent, I dissent.

She also called out the hypocrisy of the majority’s opting to sidestep Trump’s own words, when, just a week earlier, the high court found comments made by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission about a conservative baker to be religiously discriminatory. Those comments pushed the court toward ruling that the commission had acted unconstitutionally and discriminated against Masterpiece Cakeshop, a bakery that had refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

As Sotomayor wrote:

Unlike in Masterpiece, where the majority consid­ered the state commissioners’ statements about religion to be persuasive evidence of unconstitutional government, the majority here completely sets aside the President’s charged statements about Muslims as irrelevant. That holding erodes the foundational principles of religious tolerance that the Court elsewhere has so emphatically protected, and it tells members of minority religions in our country “that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.”


And the chief justice of receipts had ample evidence to back herself up.

“Taking all the relevant evidence together, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was driven primarily by anti-Muslim animus, rather than by the Government’s asserted national-security justifications,” Sotomayor wrote, before quoting Trump at length, Vox reports:

Even before being sworn into office, then-candidate Trump stated that “Islam hates us,” warned that “[w]e’re having problems with the Muslims, and we’re having problems with Muslims coming into the country,” promised to enact a “total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States,” and instructed one of his advisers to find a “lega[l]” way to enact a Muslim ban. The President continued to make similar statements well after his inauguration, as detailed above.


She also noted that Trump “never disavowed any of his prior statements about Islam. (As late as April of this year, Trump said that there was “no reason to apologize” for this remarks about Muslims.)

Finally, Sotomayor invoked Korematsu v. United States, a landmark 1944 ruling that rounding up Japanese Americans on the basis of their race and forcing them into detention camps was constitutional. In the majority Trump v. Hawaii opinion, Roberts denounces that decision, saying that the ruling “was gravely wrong the day it was decided,” and effectively (albeit indirectly) overruling the decision, which has long been viewed as a miscarriage of justice.


In so many words, Sotomayor calls Trump v. Hawaii the new Korematsu, writing that the high court “merely replaces one ‘gravely wrong’ decision with another.”


This is important to note: Normally when the Supreme Court overrules a case, it’s when a direct challenge is issued to that case—which Trump v. Hawaii is not. The majority decision appears to “overrule” Korematsu if only to distance from it the decision on Trump’s travel ban.

In the end, Sotomayor’s vigorous dissent does nothing to change the tide. Trump’s travel ban is the law of the land, and the Supreme Court has given the president no incentive to dial down explicitly racist, explicitly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric so long as his administration adds a “facially neutral” spin on the policy birthed from that rhetoric.


As Vox notes, most Supreme Court dissents end with the phrase, “I respectfully dissent.” Sotomayor chooses to leave off the “respectfully,” likely because there is nothing to respect about this decision.

Staff writer, The Root.

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