A federal judge in Texas again ruled unlawful on Wednesday a program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from deportation and allowed them to legally work in the United States, rejecting a new rule that the Biden administration had introduced to address the court’s concerns.

The judge, Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Houston, maintained that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, by executive action in 2012.

The decision is the latest twist in a five-year-long court saga that has left the program and its beneficiaries, known as Dreamers, hanging in the balance. While the ruling is a blow to the immigrants, the judge did not mandate an immediate end to the program. Current applicants will be able to keep and renew their protection. No new applications will be allowed.

“There are no material differences between the two programs,” the judge wrote in his 40-page opinion, adding that his decision did not compel the government to “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action against any DACA recipient.”

The government is almost certain to appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, experts said, and the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

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