A U.S. government official says authorities have started releasing Haitian immigrants who have been entering the country in large numbers in recent months.

The surge in immigrants from Haiti has contributed overcrowding at U.S. immigration lockups.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said less than two months ago the Haitians would be detained, but the releases mark a reversal.

The official tells The Association Press the decision applies to Haitians arriving in Arizona and California. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The vast numbers of Haitian and Central American immigrants crossing into the U.S. on the southern border has put tremendous strain on the system and poses a significant and immediate challenge to President-elect Donald Trump as he moves to ramp up deportations.


Caldwell reported from Washington.