President Barack Obama's plan to protect from deportation an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants in the United States has suffered another setback in court.
In a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld a Texas-based judge's injunction blocking the Obama administration's immigration initiative that would use a series of executive actions to give them quasi-legal status and work permits
Republicans had criticized the plan as an illegal executive overreach when Obama announced it last November. Twenty-six states challenged the plan in court.
The administration argued that the executive branch was within its rights in deciding to defer deportation of selected groups of immigrants.
Part of the initiative included expansion of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protecting young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, reacted swiftly to the ruling, Politico reports.
"Immigrant families & their U.S. citizen children have been waiting anxiously for the 5th Circuit to rule. Now, we call on the DOJ to seek cert before the Supreme Court immediately where we are more likely to obtain justice for our communities," she told Politico.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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