A federal appeal court said President Barack Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration; aimed at easing deportation threats for millions of undocumented immigrants must remain blocked.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a lower court did not “abuse its discretion” when it said challengers to the law were likely to succeed in their claim that the programs were unlawful because they didn’t comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a law that sets forward how federal agencies can establish regulations.

The ruling is a loss for the President who made immigration reform a key second-term initiative.

The administration is expected to appeal the decision to either a larger panel of judges on the appeals court or, more likely, directly to the Supreme Court.

Texas and 25 other states had challenged the President’s authority to implement the programs.

“Immigrant families and their U.S. children have been waiting anxiously for the Fifth Circuit to rule,” said Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Centre. “We urge the DOJ to immediately ask the Supreme Court to review this erroneous decision.”

Department of Justice spokesman Patrick Rodenbush spoke out against the ruling.

“The Department of Justice disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s adverse ruling on the appeal from the district court’s preliminary injunction,” he said.

“The Department is committed to taking steps that will resolve the immigration litigation as quickly as possible in order to allow DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to bring greater accountability to our immigration system by prioritizing the removal of the worst offenders, not people who have long ties to the United States and who are raising American children.”

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