SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A surge in border crossings and a lack of immigration jail space have prompted the federal government to start releasing Haitian immigrants who have been entering the country in large numbers in recent months, backtracking on a pledge to jail the migrants.
A U.S. government official told The Associated Press that the decision to free Haitians arriving in Arizona and California is in response to a lack of jail space.
The official said releasing immigrants with orders to report later to immigration court is a tactic used when detention space is scarce, under certain humanitarian conditions or as part of efforts to keep families together.
Before the Haitians are released, they are subjected to a criminal background and national security check. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity.
The influx of migrants and lack of jail space on the border will be one of the most immediate immigration challenges for President-elect Donald Trump, whose hard-line rhetoric on the issue won over conservatives and contributed to his historic upset last week. Trump vowed to build a wall on the border and carry out mass deportations.