Judge criticized by Trump will hear case on border wall

Posted at 5:42 PM, Feb 06, 2018

A federal judge whose impartiality was questioned by then-candidate Donald Trump because of his Mexican heritage is set to hear a case involving the President's border wall.

The case, which is being brought by the state of California and multiple groups, challenges the Department of Homeland Security's power to waive environmental laws in their construction of a border wall.

District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel is scheduled to hear the case on Friday in his San Diego courtroom.

The plaintiffs argue that the Trump administration is violating the Constitution and state laws because it is not "conducting any environmental review or complying with any environmental protection laws." But the federal government, citing a 1996 immigration law, says it has the authority to waive environmental laws in order to build the wall, a top campaign promise of Trump's.

The administration notes that previous challenges to this law have been unsuccessful, saying it "has been repeatedly upheld in the face of legal challenges."

Trump came under fierce criticism in June 2016 when he said Curiel, who was born in Indianawas biased due to his Mexican heritage. At the time, the judge was overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University, which was ultimately settled after Trump won the White House.

"We are building a wall. He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico," Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper in 2016.

The attacks on Curiel were widely condemned and characterized as racist by both Democrats and Republicans. House Speaker Paul Ryan said the criticism was the "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

Last year, Curiel also heard a case concerning a man who claimed he was improperly deported by the Trump administration.