DACA recipient Flor Martinez attends a rally following President Trump's rescindment of the program, Monday, Sept. 5, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

California notched another legal victory Thursday in its bid to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, as a federal appeals court agreed with the state’s attorney general and the University of California that the Trump administration cannot dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is the first federal appeals court to rule on the fate of the Obama-era program, which provides two-year permits for some 800,000 Dreamers, allowing them to work and study in the country.

About one in four Dreamers live in California, according to Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He called Thursday’s ruling “a tremendous victory for everyone who is a believer in the American dream.”

The ruling upholds an injunction filed by a federal district court in January preventing Trump from ending DACA. Justice Department lawyers had argued that President Obama illegally overstepped his authority when creating the program, and that Congress should decide Dreamers’ fate.

But the appeals court found that the executive branch has long used deferred action for certain groups of immigrants in order to better manage scarce enforcement resources. Programs like DACA “enable DHS to devote much-needed resources to enforcement priorities such as threats to national security, rather than blameless and economically productive young people with clean criminal records,” the judges wrote.

The Trump administration will likely appeal the case to the Supreme Court. A new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could also try to push legislation granting Dreamers legal status.

Barely a week after tweeting out a xenophobic midterm campaign ad, President Trump indicated at a press conference Wednesday that he was still open to negotiating with Democrats on DACA. “I think we could really do something having to do with DACA,” he said. “We’ll see how it works out at the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, UC tweeted out a message Thursday urging students who already have DACA status to renew it. The program is not accepting new applications but is processing renewals.

Maria Blanco, the director of the university’s Immigrant Legal Services Center, said her office had helped students file between 700 and 800 renewal applications since the lower court’s injunction in January. An estimated 5,000 UC students participate in the program.

Blanco said that while the ruling won’t change the advice she gives students, the fact that UC was the lead plaintiff in the case, and the subsequent legal victories, have encouraged them.

“Every time the program is not struck down, there’s a little bit of hope that it might survive overall,” she said.

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Felicia MelloCollege Journalism Network Editor

Felicia Mello edits CalMatters' College Journalism Network, a collaboration with student journalists across California to cover higher education from the ground up. Her reporting on affordability, equity...