(Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday denied a request by Texas and other states governed by Republicans to immediately end a programme launched by Democratic former president Barack Obama that protects immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.
U.S. Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas said the states had shown they were harmed by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA, but, he said, they could not prevail legally because of "their delay in pursuing the claims they now bring concerning DACA," which was first established in 2012.
The programme protects around 700,000 young adults from deportation and gives them work permits for two-year periods, after which they must re-apply.
Texas and other states that brought the lawsuit earlier this year had argued that DACA allows illegal aliens to remain in the country, which drives up the costs of healthcare and policing and makes it harder for lawful residents to find work.
The states also argued that the DACA programme flouts the will of Congress because it was created without congressional action.
Civil rights organizations, businesses and universities had filed friend of the court briefs in the Texas case to protect DACA.
They argued that the states had failed to provide convincing evidence that DACA hurts their coffers and that by authorizing DACA recipients to work their states would get more tax revenue.
Hanen, who was appointed by Republican U.S. President George W. Bush, issued a second order on Friday giving Texas permission to appeal his ruling.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement after the ruling that the plaintiffs were "now very confident that DACA will soon meet the same fate" as a parallel Obama programme, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which was previously struck down by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Paxton led a coalition of dozens of states in taking legal action against that programme.
"Our lawsuit is vital to restoring the rule of law to our nation's immigration system," Paxton said.
Republican President Donald Trump said last year that he would terminate DACA and end its protection for the immigrants who are sometimes called "Dreamers."
He gave the Republican-controlled Congress six months to replace it, but policy differences between Trump and lawmakers in both parties led to Congress' failing to act.
Courts have ruled that the programme can stay in place for now, although new applications will not be accepted.
(The story corrects paragraph 6 to show that civil rights groups, universities and businesses filed friend of court briefs instead of they had intervened in the case)
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Yeganeh Torbati in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Toni Reinhold)