Rep. Hank Johnson (D., Ga.) on Tuesday compared President Donald Trump’s travel ban to Japanese internment in World War II and used the word "orientals" while describing how authorities mistreated them.
Johnson, who gained notoriety for once expressing concern about U.S. military personnel capsizing the island of Guam, used the archaic term for Asian people at an NAACP event in Atlanta. He was attacking the Supreme Court for allowing President Franklin D. Roosevelt to take executive action to intern the Japanese in its Korematsu v. United States decision. Johnson said 1940s authorities would have had the latitude to intern any "orientals" they thought looked Japanese.
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"Can you imagine how they decided who was Japanese and who was not?" he asked. "They probably put all the oriental people in internment, whether or not you were from China or Thailand. They all look the same, right?"
This injustice, in Johnson’s view, is similar to how Trump imposed a travel ban on people from several dangerous countries, most of which have Muslim majorities. The Trump administration has argued that the countries—including Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela—were chosen for security reasons rather than ethnic or religious ones.
Johnson did not hesitate to make the comparison, however, between the Korematsu decision and the Court's 2018 Trump v. Hawaii decision to allow the travel ban to go forward.
"In 1944, it ruled constitutional an executive order mandating the internment of Japanese-American citizens of the United States of America," he said. "These folks, Japanese people, were full-fledged American citizens. They weren’t here on tourist visas."
During the same speech, Johnson compared Trump and the Republican Party to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis while also saying the president's supporters are "older, less educated, less prosperous, and dying early."