Two top Indiana Republicans have condemned GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's comments about the impartiality of a Latino federal judge presiding over lawsuits involving Trump University.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller told The Times of Munster that Trump's comments about U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel in San Diego are "way out of bounds" and threaten to undermine Americans' faith in the judicial system.
U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski said, "Questioning a judge's impartiality based on his ethnicity is not only inappropriate, it has no place in American society."
Trump has said Curiel cannot be impartial in the lawsuits because his parents were born in Mexico and Trump wants to build a wall along the border.
Curiel was the youngest of four children born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants who had relocated to the Indiana city of East Chicago for work in the steel mills, his brother Raul Curiel told The Times. His father came to the country first through the Bracero Program, which gave jobs to Mexican laborers, followed by his mother.
Gonzalo Curiel graduated In 1971 from Catholic high school in Hammond and completed his Indiana University law degree in 1979. He practiced law in Dyer for several years before leaving the state.
"My parents were not wealthy, or well-connected, or even educated," Curiel said during a 2014 commencement address at his alma matter, Indiana University's Maurer School of Law. "My parents came to Indiana from Mexico 70 years ago with little more than a fourth grade education and a belief that they could build a life for their family."
As an assistant U.S. attorney in southern California, Curiel helped negotiate the extradition of Mexican drug traffickers to the U.S. and oversaw the prosecution that brought down the Arellano Felix drug cartel. At the time, Curiel received a death threat and was placed under protection of the U.S. marshals for a year, friend Gregory Vega, a former U.S. attorney in the Southern District of California, said.
Curiel was appointed to the federal bench in 2012 by President Barack Obama. He is a decorated alumnus of IU's Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. In April he was named an Academy of Law Alumni Fellow, the school's highest award, recognizing graduates who have "distinguished themselves in their careers through personal achievements and dedication," according to the school.
Curiel also helped start a scholarship program named for his deceased brother Antonio, who was also a Maurer graduate.
During the 2014 commencement address, Curiel urged Maurer graduates to have "civility and respect for those working with you and those opposing you."
"Your reputation will be based as much on your legal ethics and civility as your work ethic and work product," he said, according to a transcript of the speech.