A U.S. judge blocked President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday from ending a program that shielded from deportation children brought to the United States illegally by their parents.
Trump decided in September to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled in San Francisco on Tuesday the program must remain in place while litigation over Trump's decision unfolds.
The ruling came as Trump and U.S. congressional leaders negotiated broad immigration reforms. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the decision "outrageous," especially after Trump's immigration meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday.
"An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process," she said. "President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration."
The DACA program has provided protection from deportation and the right to work legally to nearly 800,000 young people since it was authorized by President Barack Obama in 2012.
Several states, organizations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to protect DACA recipients, who are known as Dreamers.
Alsup said in his ruling the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had never before received protection under the program.
Representatives for the White House, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security could not be reached immediately for comment.
Trump ran on a hard line immigration platform during the 2016 presidential election, promising to end DACA and strengthen border protections to increase jobs for U.S. workers.