Judge targeted by Trump to hear high-profile deportation case

A federal judge whom President Donald Trump repeatedly criticized last year will hear the case of a man who claims he was unfairly deported by US authorities despite having protected status.

Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in the US but is of Mexican heritage, was criticized by Trump last year over his handling of a lawsuit against Trump University. Trump claimed Curiel could not impartially hear the case because of his background and Trump’s hardline immigration policies. The case was eventually settled.

The deportation case concerns Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, whose lawyers allege he was deported from California to Mexico earlier this year despite having active protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Lawyers for the man now in Mexico say their client was apprehended by Border Patrol and deported on February 18. The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that never happened.

Lawyers claim that Montes had renewed his DACA status, a protection for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children initiated under the Obama administration, in 2016, which would keep him protected until 2018, according to the lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act.

The case has put in sharp focus the murky position of the Trump administration on DACA. DHS has continued issuing the permits, though Trump pledged to end the program during the 2016 campaign.

While the administration has said that it respects DACA and that no one with active status would be deported, advocates are using the case to call into question whether DHS is being honest about its position.

Trump was condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike last year after he repeatedly referred to the Indiana-born Curiel as a “hater” and a “Mexican,” while criticizing the judge’s rulings in the case.

One of Trump’s harshest rebukes came from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who described the language as “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

Trump later defended himself in a written statement, saying he did not believe “one’s heritage (made) them incapable of being impartial.”