A U.S. federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected the Justice Department's request to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama's executive actions aimed at keeping up to 5 million immigrants living illegally in the United States from being deported.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled 2-1 in favor of 26 states, led by Texas. The judges ruled that a lawsuit by the states against the federal government should be allowed to play out.
Obama announced the executive actions in November, saying inaction by Congress on immigration reform had forced him to change some rules on his own.
One of his orders, to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, was to take effect February 18. The other major part, extending deportation protection to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been living in the country for a number of years, was to begin May 19.
The 26 state attorneys general sued the federal government, arguing that Obama had overstepped his authority. A federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of the states and temporarily blocked the president's plans in February.
The Obama administration then appealed, arguing that the U.S. Constitution bars states from intruding into what administration officials called the uniquely federal domain of immigration enforcement. It was this argument that the federal appellate court rejected Tuesday.
It was unclear whether the Justice Department would appeal the latest ruling to a higher court.
Some information for this report was provided by AP.