Washington (AFP) - A US appeals court dealt another blow to President Barack Obama's efforts to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans rejected a request from the Obama administration that it lift an injunction barring it from carrying out a measure that would have protected some four million undocumented foreigners from deportation.
Obama had used an executive order in November to drive through the measure, but in February, just before it was due to go into effect, a Texas judge issued an emergency injunction until a trial on its legality could be held.
Leading House Democrat Nancy Pelosi said the court's decision to uphold the injunction was "a disappointing delay of a clear outcome."
"Now is the time to restore fairness to our immigration system and honor the best traditions of our country by passing comprehensive immigration reform," Pelosi said in a statement.
But House Speaker John Boehner hailed the decision, and said Obama did not have the authority to issue the executive order in the first place.
"House Republicans are leading the fight to rein in President Obama's executive overreach and uphold our Constitution, and we will continue to follow this case closely," he said in a statement.
No fewer than 26 states -- all but two Republican -- had pressed the Texas judge to intervene following Obama's executive action, claiming he had acted unlawfully.
Obama's proposed program would protect undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes and have children who are American citizens or residents.
The White House claims having immigration authorities police millions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants distracts them from more pressing threats to national security.
At least 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States.