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Saturday, June 15
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U.S. Baptists detained trying to cross border with 33 children

Ten American Baptists were taken into custody in the Haitian capital Sunday after trying take 33 children out of Haiti.

The church group allegedly lacked the proper documents when it was arrested Friday night in a bus with children from 2 months to 12 years old.

The group said it was setting up an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.

“In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing,” the group’s spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, said at the judicial police headquarters in the capital, where the Americans were being held pending a Monday hearing before a judge.

The Baptists’ “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatized children.

The plan was to scoop up 100 kids and take them by bus to a 45-room hotel at Cabarete, a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, that was being converting into an orphanage, Silsby said.

The children, some of them sick and dehydrated, were taken to an orphanage run by Austrian-based SOS Children’s Villages, which was trying to find their parents or relatives, said spokesman Georg Willeit.

“One child, an 8- or 9-year-old, said she thought she was going to some sort of summer or vacation camp in the Dominican Republic,” Willeit said.

Whether they realized it or not, these Americans – the first known to be taken into custody since the Jan. 12 quake – put themselves in the middle of a firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking.

While many legitimate adoption agencies and orphanages operate in Haiti, the International Organization for Migration reported in 2007 that bogus adoption agencies in Haiti were offering children to rich Haitians and foreigners in return for processing fees reaching $10,000.

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