A young Haitian migrant, one of the 11 unaccompanied minors who came ashore with more than 200 other Haitians when their wooden freighter ran aground in October, was released on Christmas Eve, officials said.
Jimmy Noel, 16, was released from detention by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials and placed into the custody of his sister, Chimene Noel, 24.
"This is the best Christmas I can remember," the youth said in his native Creole. "It's the best Christmas gift I've ever had."
INS spokeswoman Ana Santiago said she believed Jimmy Noel was the first person released from custody since the boat carrying about 220 Haitians ran ashore near the Rickenbacker Causeway on Oct. 29. She could not say why the boy was released or when the other unaccompanied minors would be freed.
Haitian activist Cheryl Little, a Miami-based attorney, said Noel will still have to fight deportation but could stay in the United States through the asylum process or sponsorship by a close relative.
Most of the adult Haitian migrants who came ashore have been held at the Krome Detention Center in southwest Miami-Dade County, despite many protests from activists and pleas to government officials to free the detainees.