TORONTO -- The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol received hefty backlash to a tweet uploaded on Christmas Eve, declaring that Santa Claus was "cleared for entry" into the country – as Twitter users flooded the responses with photos of migrant children held in detention centres.

“Santa, his reindeer and all of the presents have been cleared by CBP for entry into the United States!” the tweet reads, with a photo of Santa Claus holding apparent government-issued identification.

The reaction was swift.

“Hope he brought gifts for these kids,” replied online activist group Sleeping Giants, with a photo of children huddled under blankets on the floor of an apparent detention centre.

Writer Rob Rousseau responded “if he didn’t have the proper credentials, would you arrest him would you arrest santa[sic]”

Other users responded with cartoons, memes and modified nativity scenes -- including the California church who showed Jesus, Mary and Joseph separated by cages -- that heavily criticize both the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In November the Associated Press reported that the U.S. had held more than 69,000 migrant children in custody over the past year, with several reports of children allegedly dying without access to medical care.