A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed a lower court ruling that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is unlawful.
The judges said that the government can no longer accept new applicants but did not order the program to be dismantled to ensure those who are currently protected will not be deported.
The judges sent the case back to the Federal District Court in Houston but noted that the defendants were likely to succeed in their attempt to shut down the program.
"The legal questions that DACA presents are serious, both to the parties and to the public. In our view, the defendants have not shown that there is a likelihood that they will succeed on the merits," the judges wrote.
DACA protects around 600,000 people, commonly referred to as "dreamers," who were brought to the U.S. illegally when they were children.
President Joe Biden responded to the decision and urged Congress to pass legislation making the DACA program permanent.
"I am disappointed in today's Fifth Circuit decision holding that DACA is unlawful. The court's stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients, but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo," Biden said.
"And while we will use the tools we have to allow Dreamers to live and work in the only country they know as home," Biden continued, "it is long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship."