One of the most offensive moments of the Trump campaign was when the now-president questioned the impartiality of a judge solely based on his "Mexican heritage." At the time, Trump was pushing for a border wall on the campaign trail while facing two class-action lawsuits and a civil suit by New York State over the now-defunct Trump University. And when the trial didn't seem to go his way — Trump had to pay $25 million in the end — he lashed out. So, who is Judge Gonzalo Curiel? The judge is back in the news for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals case.
Curiel, who was born in East Chicago, Indiana, to Mexican immigrant parents, has been a judge for more than a decade, but his first appointment was as a state-level judge in California. Before that he worked as a prosecutor targeting drug cartels — and was so good that even his life was threatened.
He joined the bench then in 2006 as an Arnold Schwarzenegger pick. Finally, in 2011, he was given the raise to U.S. District Court by former President Barack Obama. As for his judicial philosophy, he seems to be on the conservative side.
"As a trial judge I recognize that I'm not there to make the law," Curiel said during his confirmation hearing. "I'm not there to interpret the law, I'm there to follow the law as established by the precedent of our Supreme Court."
How that will play out in this current case is anyone's guess. The issue at stake is the information regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement's role in the recent deportation of a DREAMer. Juan Manuel Montes, who is just 23 and has been in the United States since the age of 9, was picked up while at a friend's house. His DACA card, which proved his legal status through 2018, was in his wallet, which he left in the car.
Montes was pressured to sign some forms and was quickly deported to Mexico. His lawyers have pushed the government to release the paperwork connected to his case under a Freedom of Information Act request. The Department of Homeland Security has claimed that his DACA status had expired, but Montes' lawyers have copies of the card showing it was good through 2018.
Meanwhile, Montes is in limbo, stuck on the other side of the border. "I miss my job. I miss school...But most of all, I miss my family," Montes said in a statement. Perhaps the records can get to the bottom of his case. Judge Curiel will be the one deciding.