President Donald Trump can not end protections for undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, according to a federal court on Thursday.
The decision by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals preserves the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme introduced in 2012 that has shielded from deportation a group of immigrants dubbed "Dreamers" and has given them work permits, though not a path to citizenship.
"We conclude that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the rescission of DACA - at least as justified on this record - is arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law", the panel ruled.
Lawsuits by California and others challenging the administration's decision will continue in federal court while the injunction stands. As it stands now, DACA supporters, or challengers to the government's petition, need to file their response with the court before December 5.
Negotiations to settle government policy concerning DACA recipients have failed to produce new legislation in Congress since Trump took office.
"The DACA will now hopefully go to the Supreme Court where it will be given a fair decision", Trump told reporters.
The 9th Circuit would hear any appeal by Trump's administration of the ruling late on Thursday by a federal judge in Montana blocking construction for environmental reasons of the Keystone XL pipeline project that is created to carry heavy crude oil from Canada to the United States.
According to the Associated Press, the case could head to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Dreamers also made an Equal Protection constitutional argument that both the panel and concurring Judge John Owens found valid: The Trump administration eliminated DACA out of hostility to Latinos.
A federal appeals court has halted the president's attempts to end DACA while lawsuits over the matter play out in court.
An email to the US Department of Justice was not immediately returned.
The administration then asked the 9th Circuit to throw out Judge Alsup's ruling. In their arguments to the Ninth Circuit, Attorney General Becerra's legal team emphasized the irreparable harm that DACA recipients, their communities and the states would suffer if the program were terminated.
"The 9th Circuit is an easy punching bag for Trump because not only has it been traditionally liberal but California is its beating heart, and we all know how Trump fares in California", said Barry McDonald, a law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu. The Supreme Court previously rejected a similar request to pre-emptively intervene in February. That decision was stayed pending appeal.
Federal judges in NY and Washington also have ruled against Trump on DACA.