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A federal judge on Tuesday night temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s decision to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation. Time

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PHOENIX — Young immigrants soon facing the loss of deportation protections and work permits received some stunning news Tuesday, when a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from ending a program that protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Alsup ordered the Trump administration to resume allowing the "DREAMers" to renew their deportation protections and work permits under the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The news came as bipartisan members of Congress and the White House inched closer to hammering out a compromise solution before the program begins to be phased out on March 5.

While happy that the program, which former president Barack Obama created in 2012, will be allowed to continue, DREAMers now worry Congress will lose the urgency to pass legislation after months of foot dragging.

Jan. 9: In extraordinary public negotiation with Congress, Trump promises to sign DACA bill

Jan. 8: How Trump's wall pledge is complicating a DACA bill for 'Dreamers'

"The message to Congress is this is a small victory, but the urgency is still there because DACA protected 800,000 DREAMers but there is still 2 million who could qualify for protection under the DREAM Act," said Karina Ruiz, executive director of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that is pushing for a bill that would allow 2 million to 3 million DREAMers to apply for permanent legal residency and eventually citizenship.

In a statement Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said: “We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the President’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day. An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process. 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.”

President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday saying, "It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.

The ruling

In his ruling, Alsup granted a request by several plaintiffs including California, the University of California system, and several California cities, to block the Trump administration from phasing out DACA while their lawsuit challenging the termination plays out in court.

Alsup ordered that until a final judgment is reached, the program must continue and those already approved for DACA protections and work permits must be allowed to renew them before they expire.

DREAMers who have never received DACA protections, however, will not be allowed to apply, Alsup ordered.

Alsup said plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the legal merits of the lawsuit claiming that the Trump administration's decision to end the program was "arbitrary and capricious" and based on a flawed legal premise.

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Pushing for compromise on immigration reform, President Donald Trump urged a bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered at the White House to put "country before party" and negotiate a deal in two phases, first by addressing young immigrants. (Jan. 9) AP

Alsup also agreed that the plaintiffs would be harmed by the abrupt end of the DACA program — in part because of the economic disruptions and loss of tax revenues that would be caused by their sudden removal from the workforce.

Under the program, the Department of Homeland Security reversed the discretion to deport DACA recipients at any time, Alsup pointed out.

"Nevertheless, DACA has provided recipients with a major benefit, namely work authorizations for a period of deferral upon a demonstration of economic need. This has allowed DACA recipients to become part of a mainstream workforce and contribute openly to our economy,” Alsup wrote.

Plans to end DACA

On Sept. 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DACA program would be phased out as of March 5, calling the program an illegal circumvention of immigration law enacted by the Obama administration.

Trump then called on Congress to come up with a permanent solution to protect Dreamers by March 5. DACA recipients whose permits expired before March 5 were given until Oct. 5 to apply for renewal.

Jan. 8: In reversal, anti-immigration groups are open to deal to let 800,000 DREAMers stay

Jan. 5: Each day, 120 'dreamers' lose protection from deportation

In all, about 800,000 DREAMers were approved for DACA protections since the program started accepting applications in August 2012. But as of Sept. 5, about 689,800 DREAMers were enrolled in the program, with all of them facing the loss of DACA protections and work permits by the end of September 2019, unless Congress acts.

In a written statement, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley defended the Trump administration's decision to end the program, reiterating that it was an "unlawful circumvention of Congress."

"The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation," O'Malley said.

What's next?

Dreamers, meanwhile, said they expect the Justice Department will quickly appeal Tuesday's court order, further throwing their lives into turmoil.

"The Court’s decisions is a powerful recognition that the lives of undocumented youth should not hang in limbo," Erika Andiola, a DREAMer with the Fight for Our Dream organization said in a written statement.

She called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act along with a spending bill Congress must pass by Jan. 19 to avoid a government shutdown.

"We need permanent protection, and we do not want to be at the whim of a back and forth legal strategy," she said.

DACA recipients are commonly referred to as DREAMers, based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act that would have provided similar protections for young immigrants.

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Daniel González on Twitter: @azdangonzalez

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