Justice Sonia Sotomayor Strongly Challenges The Travel Ban

“Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., reading for the majority on Tuesday morning, spoke clinically. Justice Stephen G. Breyer followed, working his way through his dissent mildly and analytically.Then it was Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s turn. Steely and unwavering, she began: ‘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 crowded courthouse fell silent.” C. Edmondson, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key


Excerpt: Sonia Sotomayor Delivers Fiery Dissent in Travel Ban Case by By Catie Edmondson The New York Times

“In upholding [Trump’s] ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, Justice Sotomayor continued, the Supreme Court had failed to “safeguard that fundamental principle.’

For the next 20 minutes, she remained resolute as she delivered an extraordinarily scorching dissent, skewering the court’s decision and condemning the ban as ‘harrowing’ and ‘motivated by hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith.’

The remarkable dissent was delivered by a woman who has championed her own upbringing as an example of the American dream. Justice Sotomayor, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico during World War II, was raised in a housing project in the Bronx. Her father did not speak English and her first language was Spanish. But determined to become a judge, she would go on to attend Princeton University and become the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice.

Justice Sotomayor once said that ‘personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.’ She again drew upon that idea in her dissent on Tuesday, in which she accused the majority of ‘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.’

That was the crux of the Justice Sotomayor’s damning conclusion: The president’s ban is ‘inexplicable by anything but animus,’ and to argue anything else is to divorce oneself from the facts…

But one of her most striking decisions was to repeat the words of the president himself. Citing more than a dozen instances in which Mr. Trump tweeted or issued anti-Muslim sentiments, it was his words, not her own, that rang out from the bench…The conservative justices, staring unblinkingly ahead, remained stone-faced…In another powerful passage, Justice Sotomayor drew parallels between the decision and Korematsu v. United States, the 1944 ruling that upheld the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

‘As here, the government invoked an ill-defined national security threat to justify an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion,’ she said. ‘As here, the exclusion was rooted in dangerous stereotypes about, inter alia, a particular group’s supposed inability to assimilate and desire to harm the United States.’

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s speech was both Steely and unwavering.
  2. The ban affects several predominantly Muslim countries.
  3. For the next 20 minutes, she remained resolute.
  4. Justice Sotomayor’s remarkable dissent was described as scorching. 
  5. She said that the ban was motivated by hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith.”
  6. Justice Sotomayor accused the majority of ignoring the facts and misconstruing our legal precedent.
  7. That was the crux of the Justice Sotomayor’s conclusion.
  8. The court voted 5 to 4, with the more conservative justices in the majority.
  9. At one point she stated that Trump’s policy now masquerades behind a facade of national security concerns.
  10. The conservative justices, staring unblinkingly ahead, remained stone-faced.


Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The ___voted 5 to 4, with the more ___justices in the ___and with Justice Breyer ___his own dissent. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg___ Justice Sotomayor’s.

WORD LIST:  joined,conservative, majority, court,writing,


Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. Justice Sotomayor choose her words carefully.
  2. Her most striking decision was to repeat the words of the president himself.
  3. She continued down the list for minutes, reading one example after another.



  1. The crowded courthouse fall silent.
  2. Justice Sotomayor was raised in a housing project in the Bronx.
  3. She accused the majority of ignoring the facts, misconstruing our legal precedent.


  1. She  stated that Trump had never disavow any of his statements regarding Islam.
  2. The government invoked an ill-defined national security threat to justify an exclusionary policy.
  3. Justice Sotomayor continued that our nation has done much to leave its sordid legacy behind.


III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.