- The judge that President Donald Trump previously accused of being biased and “a Mexican” is now overseeing a major lawsuit against the border wall.
- Judge Gonzalo Curiel will preside over a hearing on the case in US district court on Friday.
- The lawsuit is the main legal challenge to the border wall’s construction and its potential impacts on the environment.
The federal judge that President Donald Trump once argued was too biased by his Mexican heritage to handle lawsuits against Trump University will now hear a key legal challenge to Trump’s long-promised border wall.
On Friday, Judge Gonzalo Curiel is presiding over the main environmental lawsuit against the Trump administration’s plans to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border.
The plaintiffs, which include three separate parties whose suits have been consolidated into one, are arguing that the Trump administration is exceeding its authority in waiving environmental laws to build new border structures, including the eight wall prototypes that have already been erected near the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego, California.
They also argued that the wall construction could result in “irreparable harm” to wildlife and ecosystems along the border.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, is expected to argue that the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to waive the environmental laws, and that previous courts have upheld the department’s authority on border security.
“Congress unmistakably expressed its policy judgment that construction of the barriers and roads along the border was of such importance that it justified waiving application of environmental and other laws,” the Trump administration said in a brief.
Andrew Gordon, a former Homeland Security lawyer under the Obama administration, told McClatchy it’s “a very significant case,” noting that Curiel could dramatically slow down Trump’s plans for construction even if the government successfully appeals his ruling.
Curiel drew national attention during the presidential campaign after Trump assailed him for his heritage, at times falsely describing him as “a Mexican” even though Curiel was born in Indiana.
“Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall,” Trump said in an infamous exchange with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings — rulings that people can’t even believe.”
Trump ultimately agreed to a $25 million settlement in the fraud cases, and Curiel never responded publicly to Trump’s attacks.