A federal appeals court has rejected President Barack Obama’s effort to move forward with a series of executive actions he announced last year seeking to give quasi-legal status and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants.

The 2-1 ruling Monday from the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit is a defeat for the Obama administration, but one that may have come just in the nick of time to give the Supreme Court the chance to revive Obama’s attempt to make it easier for many immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally to live and work here.

The timing of the appeals court’s decision had become of increasing concern to the Obama administration and immigrant rights’ groups in recent weeks.

Obama’s latest round of executive actions has been on hold since February, and delay in the issuance of the appeals court’s ruling was raising doubt about whether the Supreme Court would have an opportunity to resolve the case in time to allow Obama to move forward with the programs before leaving office.

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