President Obama's controversial plans to regularise the status of some five million illegal immigrants to the US suffered a setback after a court in Texas ruled the president had exceeded his authority with the proposals.
The decision, which the White House immediately said the Justice Department will appeal, is a significant loss for Mr Obama, pictured, who announced the unilateral immigration reform measures in November in a prime time television address.
The ruling by a federal judge in Texas late on Monday temporarily blocks the president's executive actions, giving a coalition of 26 US states time to pursue a lawsuit that aims to permanently stop the orders.
The decision is a potential victory for Republicans who had long blocked bipartisan immigration reforms in Congress and were infuriated by Mr Obama's attempts to sidestep them by using his executive authority.
In November, Mr Obama said his de facto reforms were "commonsense policies" that would allow the innocent children of illegal immigrants to "come out of the shadows" and were part of an essential package of measures needed to fix America's "broken" immigration system.
Under the proposals, Mr Obama effectively told immigration officials to selectively enforce the law, creating an effective amnesty and path to citizenship for about five million undocumented Americans, out of a total of 11 million.
In a statement released in the middle of the night, the White House rebuffed the Texas ruling saying that Mr Obama had acted lawfully, citing "five decades of precedent" in which both Republican and Democrat presidents had used their authority to set priorities in enforcing immigration laws.
"The district court's decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision," the statement added.
Republicans in Congress, who have accused Mr Obama of acting "like an emperor" by going it alone, are also seeking to block Mr Obama's de facto reforms by cutting off funding for the Homeland Security Department to administer the reforms.
John Boehner, the speaker of the House, said the Texas ruling underscored the Republican position that Mr Obama had exceeded his authority.
Several legal experts said that the Texas ruling is likely to be overturned on appeal, however groups working to help illegal immigrants register for the new programme warned the ruling would sow confusion and still have a potentially "chilling" effect on the reforms when implemented.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)
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