In an ironic turn of events likely to signal trouble for Trump, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump accused of being biased because of his Mexican heritage, was just assigned to hear the case of Juan Manuel Montes, the first DREAMer to be deported by the Trump administration.
During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump alleged that Curiel, who presided over the Trump University lawsuits in which the President ultimately settled for $25 million, was unable to maintain impartiality. He said of Judge Curiel:
“We’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico.”
Curiel was born in Indiana.
Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Montes is a 23-year-old resident of California who has been in the United States since the age of nine. He was approved for the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive order that allows young undocumented immigrants to remain in the country. Trump had pledged to keep the program in tact.
Similarly, the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is legislation designed to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. There are currently 750,000 DREAMers in the United States, many of whom have been in America their whole lives.
Of these programs designed to protect undocumented minors, Trump told ABC News, “They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart.” Apparently, though, it’s not that big.
It is highly unlikely that Curiel would recuse himself from hearing the case, as recusal typically occurs if there is a conflict of interest or if a judge has a financial stake in the outcome. However, being attacked by Trump – a rather common occurrence these days – hardly presents a conflict of interest.
It is an interesting development, to say the least, that Curiel and Montes – both baselessly attacked by Trump – will find themselves in the same courtroom as potential allies in their fight against the White House. To Trump’s chagrin, democracy is a system of checks and balances, and as long as federal judges like Gonzalo Curiel are there to protect our fragile democracy, it will be able to withstand even the most heinous attacks, like deporting a DREAMer with protective status from his home of fourteen years.