A US federal appeals court denied the Justice Department's request to life a temporary ban on President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration reform.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans's three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favour of the 26 states suing the federal government over the actions. According to Voice of America, the judges stated the lawsuit should go through the judicial system.
The decision marks a devastating blow to the White House, according to the New York Observer. While the Obama administration has not announced whether it will continue to appeal against the decision, it is expected that further appeals will happen.
President Obama announced the executive orders in November, in response to the inability of Congress to come to an agreement on immigration reform.
One of the orders, which expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, was scheduled to take effect on 18 February. The other order, which expanded protections for undocumented immigrant parents under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (Dapa) programme, was set to go into effect on 19 May.
Executive orders issued 'illegally'
However, 26 states sued the federal government stating the president had issued the executive orders illegally. A Texas federal judge sided with the states and instated a temporary ban on the executive orders in February.
The federal government argued against the ban, saying the temporary hold threatened national security. According to TIME, the White House fired back against the appeals court's decision.
"Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government's request for a stay," White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine said. "The President's actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do four the country."
TIME reported that while the appeals court decided against removing the temporary ban, it has not ruled on whether the 26 states were justified in their initial lawsuit against the president's executive action.
In a statement, the court said the order "is consistent with laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws".