A second US judge has blocked the White House from ending a programme barring the deportation of immigrants brought illegally to the US as children.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme cannot end in March as President Donald Trump had planned, a New York City judge ruled.
The decision comes a month after another judge ruled it must stay in place as legal challenges play out.
The US Supreme Court is due to consider a White House appeal of that ruling.
President Donald Trump in September rescinded the Obama-era scheme, which protects some 800,000 people and provides temporary permits for work and study.
He delayed enforcement to give Congress until 5 March to enact a replacement plan for Daca recipients, known as “Dreamers”.
But US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in New York on Tuesday ruled that his reasons for revoking the programme were too arbitrary and could not stand.
He ordered the Trump administration to process Daca renewal applications under the same terms that applied before the president’s September order.
The New York decision is similar to one issued on 9 January by US District Judge William Alsup, who said the justice department’s argument that the scheme was illegal was based on a “flawed legal premise”.
The San Francisco judge ordered the government to process renewal applications from people who had previously been covered, but not for those who had never before received protection under the scheme.
After Tuesday’s ruling, a US Department of Justice spokesman reaffirmed the administration’s stance that former President Barack Obama unlawfully implemented the programme and it was therefore unconstitutional.
“The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
The US Supreme Court on Friday is due to consider whether to hear an appeal from the administration against the 9 January ruling. A decision on whether to take up the case could be announced as soon as Friday afternoon.
The legal challenges create more uncertainty as the US Senate debates immigration reform.
Democrats and Republicans have vowed to work together on a new immigration bill that would address President Trump’s campaign promise for more border security as well as the fate of Daca recipients.
What is Daca?
The scheme was created in 2012 by then President Barack Obama to shield children of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
It also provided work and study permits for those it covered.
In order to qualify for Daca, applicants under the age of 30 were required to submit personal information to the Department of Homeland Security, including addresses and phone numbers.
They had to pass an FBI background check, have a clean criminal background, and either be in school, recently graduated or have been honourably discharged from the military.
In exchange, the US government agreed to “defer” any action on their immigration status for a period of two years.
The majority of dreamers are from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The justice department has said no current Daca recipients will be affected by the decision to scrap the scheme before 5 March 2018, but no new applications will be accepted.
Daca: Second judge blocks Trump move to end Dreamers scheme