President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Picture: Evan Vucci/AP

Washington - A US judge blocked President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday from ending a programme that shielded from deportation children brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

Trump decided in September to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, or DACA. US District Judge William Alsup ruled in San Francisco on Tuesday the programme must remain in place while litigation over Trump's decision unfolds.

The ruling came as Trump and US congressional leaders negotiated broad immigration reforms.

Alsup's decision follows on from stands taken by other US judges to rein in Trump's immigration policies, striking down moves against sanctuary cities and limiting the scope of a ban against travel from some Muslim-majority counties.

The DACA programme has provided protection from deportation and the right to work legally to nearly 800,000 young people since it was authorised by President Barack Obama in 2012.

Several states, organisations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to protect DACA recipients, who are known as Dreamers.

Alsup said in his ruling the federal government did not have to process new applications from people who had never before received protection under the program. However, he ordered the government to process renewal applications people who had previously been covered.

"DACA gave them a more tolerable set of choices, including joining the mainstream workforce," Alsup wrote. "Now, absent an injunction, they will slide back to the pre-DACA era and associated hardship."

A Department of Homeland Security spokesman declined to comment, and representatives for the White House and the Department of Justice could not be reached immediately for comment.

Trump ran on a hardline immigration platform during the 2016 presidential election, promising to end DACA and strengthen border protections to increase jobs for US workers.