San Diego, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose Mexican-American heritage was once called a conflict by U.S. President Donald Trump, ruled in favor of the Trump administration in a border-wall case.
Curiel said Tuesday that the White House did not abuse its discretion in waiving environmental laws in its rush to begin border wall projects in Southern California.
The order that gives a green light to current and future barrier construction.
The case received special attention because of Curiel’s history with Trump. Curiel presided over two class-action lawsuits against Trump University and ultimately approved the cases’ $25-million settlement. Trump complained that Curiel’s “Mexican heritage” biased the judge against him because of Trump’s strict border views.
Curiel never responded to Trump’s attack.
But on Tuesday, Curiel ruled in a 101-page order that the Department of Homeland Security has wide discretion when it comes to border security.
In his ruling Tuesday, Curiel at the outset acknowledged the political dissension over the border wall — and hinted at the extra scrutiny he and this case are under — but stressed that his decision here does not and cannot consider whether such border barrier plans “are politically wise or prudent.”
Curiel then quoted U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, whom he pointed out is a fellow Indiana native, underlying his own American origin.
“Court(s) are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he said.
The order means a fence replacement project that began last week in Calexico won’t be interrupted. The plan, which was initiated well before Trump took office, calls for replacing two miles of decades-old landing mats with 30-foot bollards placed closely together.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which filed the initial lawsuit in the case, intends to appeal the ruling.