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US judge criticised by Trump rejects challenge to border wall
[LOS ANGELES] An American judge whose impartiality was questioned by Donald Trump because of his Hispanic origins on Tuesday rejected a legal challenge to the president's planned wall on the Mexican border.
The state of California and various environmental group had argued that waivers to environmental regulations, which were granted so construction of border wall prototypes and the replacement of existing border fencing could proceed, exceeded authority granted by Congress, were unconstitutional, or both.
Gonzalo Curiel ruled in favour of the US government, but also made clear that the decision was separate from the underlying issue of whether or not the wall - the cost of which could run into the tens of billions of dollars - should be built.
"Court is aware that the subject of these lawsuits, border barriers, is currently the subject of heated political debate in and between the United States and the Republic of Mexico as to the need, efficacy and the source of funding for such barriers," he wrote.
"In its review of this case, the Court cannot and does not consider whether underlying decisions to construct the border barriers are politically wise or prudent."
Mr Trump took to Twitter to hail the ruling, terming it a "big legal win." "Now this important project can go forward!" he tweeted.
During his 2016 campaign for the presidency, Mr Trump took aim at Judge Curiel's Mexican heritage, saying it should disqualify him from ruling on a fraud lawsuit involving the now-defunct Trump University.
"He's a Mexican," Mr Trump said of Judge Curiel, who was born and raised in the United States. "We're building a wall between here and Mexico.
"I have a Mexican judge. He's of Mexican heritage. He should have recused himself, not only for that, for other things," Mr Trump said.
Building a wall on the border with Mexico was one of Mr Trump's main campaign promises.
But while the president said that Mexico would pay for its construction, it seems increasingly likely that American taxpayers will be footing the bill.