Ten Americans Arrested In Haiti for Illegal Adoption: Hotel Room ‘Orphanage’
January 31, 2010
(ChattahBox)—-Laura Silsby, the leader of the Idaho-based charity New Life Children’s Refuge, told reporters on Saturday, while being held in custody in Haiti on child trafficking charges, “we came here to help the children and we know God will reveal truth.” Silsby, along with nine other Americans working for the charity group, were arrested at the Haiti border crossing with the Dominican Republic on Friday night, and they are now being held in custody in Port-au-Prince, while they await a court hearing on Monday. The members of the New Life Children’s Refuge were attempting to leave the country with 33 Haitian children, with no adoption documents and without authorization from the Haitian government. Haiti has suspended the majority of adoptions of Haitian children, after the devastating earthquake, amid fears that child traffickers would take advantage of the chaos and steal children for illegal adoptions.
The five men and five American women, were arrested in Malpasse, Haiti after Haitian police conducted a routine search of their vehicle. The members of the New Life Children’s Refuge were attempting to take the children ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, to an orphanage they claim to have in the Dominican Republic.
The charity’s leader Laura Silsby told Reuters from a jail cell at Haiti’s Judicial Police headquarters, “We had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage that we have there.” “We have a Baptist minister here (in Port-au-Prince) whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children to the orphanage in the Dominican Republic,” Silsby added.
“I was going to come back here to do the paperwork,” Silsby said. “They accuse us of children trafficking. This is something I would never do. We were not trying to do something wrong.”
But Silsby had no authorization from the Haitian government to take the children out of the country for adoption. Yves Cristalin, Haiti’s social affairs minister, said “This is totally illegal.” “No children can leave Haiti without proper authorization and these people did not have that authorization.”
Silsby and her group had no papers from the Haitian government certifying that the children were in fact orphans. Haitian officials have been concerned, since the powerful earthquake destroyed the capital city on January 12, which killed an estimated 150,000 people, that aid groups may have flown children out of the country for adoption before efforts to find their parents had been exhausted.
Although Silsby said that she was taking the children to an orphanage the charity group operates in the Dominican Republic, no such orphanage yet exists. A report in the Idaho Statesman notes that the group had only been in the process of building an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, before the quake hit Haiti.
According to Sean Lankford, whose wife and daughter were among those arrested, Silsby and her group had rented hotel rooms in the Dominican Republic to house the Haitian children, until an orphanage could be built.
According to the account in the Idaho Statesman:
“Lankford said the Idahoans had been planning an orphanage in the Dominican Republic for several years, and they were ready to build when the earthquake hit. Members quickly arranged to help a pastor whose orphanage in Haiti collapsed, Lankford said.”
Lankford claims the group was well intentioned. “They really believed that they had all the paperwork that they needed,” he said. “They’ve been working with governments on both sides for a while,” Lankford added.
Silsby said she obtained the children from a Haitian minister. “Group leader Laura Silsby said the group paid no money for the children, whom she said they obtained from well-known Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.”
U.S. Embassy officials met with the detained Americans on Saturday and gave them food and bug spray. The Haitian children are being housed at an SOS Children’s Village outside the capital.
Eight of the arrested Americans are from Idaho and are associated with Meridian’s Central Valley Baptist Church and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls. Two other suspects are from Texas and Kansas.
Photo Source: AP