A controversial special relief program for Nicaraguan immigrants is being dismantled, and city officials say it's time for the newcomers to fend for themselves.

"You have to kick them out of the nest," said Martha Torres, a volunteer dispatching some of the last Nicaraguans under city care to homes.The city had assembled two shelters to handle the more than 300 aliens who were living in the Bobby Maduro Miami Stadium. They were later placed in more than 80 apartments across Dade County.

By Thursday, city workers sent off the last people from the shelters and did not plan to reopen them again.

Most of the immigrants placed by the city won't have to pay their own rent until mid-March, and city officials said they won't be offered further help.

The assistance drew criticism from black leaders in the wake of last month's disturbances in Miami's black neighborhoods. They said Hispanic immigrants were granted special privileges from the city, while blacks were relatively ignored and have always been left to fend for themselves.

Critics of the city's recent decisions say the Nicaraguans are unlikely to be able to become self-sufficient because most won't have work permits while immigration officials decide whether they will be permitted to stay.

"These people have really been thrown to the lions," said Vivian Correa, a volunteer at St. Louis Catholic Church, which is continuing to provide food for some families.