The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Trump administration's decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program lacked a proper legal foundation.
The program was created in 2014 by an executive order signed by president Barack Obama to protect some 700,000 young people from deportation who came to the country before the age of 16, known as 'Dreamers'.
Republicans, led by Trump, have argued in court that Obama exceeded his authority and that Congress has power over immigration.
A panel of three judges decided to uphold a a preliminary injunction in January by a federal court in California which ordered the government to reinstate the program which was canceled by the then attorney general, Jeff Sessions, in September 2017.
In the ruling, the panel concluded that the government's decision was "arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with the law."
Thursday's ruling comes three days after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asked the Supreme Court to review the program without taking into account legal actions in the hands of lower courts and one day after the firing of Sessions, one of the main opponents of the program.
Thursday's ruling means that the program can remain in force, but does not allow for new applications to be received.
The judicial fight
After Sessions canceled the program in 2017, the Trump administration gave the Deamers 30 days to renew their applications. The president also asked Congress to debate legislation to come up with a permanent solution. But that period elapsed without any agreement between Democrats, Republicans and the White House.
The Trump administration has said it moved to end the program last year because Texas and other states threatened to sue, raising the prospect of a chaotic end to DACA. The administration cited a 2015 ruling by another U.S. appeals court that blocked a separate immigration policy implemented by Obama.
Trump’s decision to end DACA has prompted lawsuits across the nation, including one by California. A judge overseeing that lawsuit and four others ruled against the administration and reinstated the program in January.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected the argument that Obama had exceeded his power in creating DACA and said the Trump administration failed to consider the disruption that ending the program would cause.
In April 24, a third federal court reinstated DACA and gave the government 90 days to present additional evidence to support its case to eliminate the program. They warned then that if they did not expand their explanations, new applications would be accepted.