US & Canada

Federal appeals court halts Obama immigration action

Immigration activists outside of a circuit court in New Orleans on 14 October 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Immigration activists have fought for the executive action to be upheld

A federal appeals court is halting President Barack Obama's executive action that would have kept five million people from deportation.

The US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday to uphold a Texas judge's blocking injunction.

Critics of the plan said it was an executive "overreach" by Mr Obama and 26 states legally challenged it.

Mr Obama argued that deferring deportations was within the administration's power.

The ruling would have let Mr Obama defer deportation of groups of immigrants, including children.

"We strongly disagree with the 5th Circuit's decision," a White House official told the AP news agency. "The Supreme Court and Congress have made clear that the federal government can set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott applauded the ruling, calling Mr Obama's proposal "lawless".

The Texas court rejected the Obama administration's argument that, among other things, the states did not have the standing to challenge the order.

A dissenting judge wrote that the administration's proposed actions were lawful, calling them "quintessential exercises of prosecutorial discretion".

It is unlikely the action will pass before Mr Obama leaves office because appeals often take months.

The National Immigration Law Center has called for a quick Supreme Court appeal.