WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2015 - A federal appeals court refused to allow the Obama administration to move forward with its plan to let millions of illegal immigrants to stay in the country. 

The 2-1 ruling by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but a decision there in favor of the administration would leave it little time to begin accepting applications for the program. 

Texas and 25 other states sued to stop President Obama from going forward with the initiative, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), on the grounds that the administration had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act in setting it up.

The program would provide work permits to illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and have children. An estimated 4.3 million immigrations would be eligible for DAPA. 

Farm groups have been concerned that a number of agricultural workers would apply for the DAPA program and leave for other jobs. Some experts, however, say farmworkers may be reluctant to risk coming forward to apply for temporary legal status.  

The appeals court said the states “established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their procedural and substantive APA claims; and they have satisfied the other elements required for an injunction.”

Immigration advocates urged the Justice Department to appeal the ruling. 

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Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center said the ruling was “inconsistent with even the most basic legal principles. While it is clear that our fight is far from over, the power of our voices and our votes will eventually prevail and bring about change. We will not deviate from a future in which all immigrants are treated with dignity and justice.”

The left-leaning Center for American Progress said the ruling “ignores strong legal and historical precedent for the actions taken by the administration.” The group said the “Supreme Court should take up this case as soon as possible so that the country can reap all of the benefits that would come from these crucial initiatives.” 

But House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., called the ruling a “victory for the Constitution and the American people. … Such lawlessness must be stopped so that we preserve the separation of powers in the Constitution and protect individual liberty.”

The other states participating in the lawsuit are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.