In a move clearly designed to save money, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency says it has released a number of Caribbean and other immigrant detainees from jails and detention centres across the country.
ICE said that the move comes as automatic US federal budget cuts loom on March 1.
"In order to make the best use of our limited detention resources in the current fiscal climate and to manage our detention population under current congressionally mandated levels, ICE has directed field offices to review the detained population to ensure it is in line with available funding," said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.
"As a result of this review, a number of detained aliens have been released around the country and placed on an appropriate, more cost-effective form of supervised release," she added.
Christensen declined to give an estimate of how many immigrants, and their nationalities, were placed on "supervised release".
But advocates and immigration lawyers reported a "mass release", including dozens of detainees from separate facilities in New Jersey, Arizona, Louisiana, Texas and Florida.
Bryan Johnson, an immigration lawyer in Long Island, New York, said a client held in New Jersey's Bergen County Jail called to tell him guards were freeing 12 immigrants.
"We're getting reports from multiple detention centres in Texas, Florida and New Orleans, where detainees who are low priority are being released in mass without bond," said Domenic Powell, a spokesman for the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a Washington-based immigration advocacy group.