…but first I would like to punch the woman who came into my office this week and said, “How many of those little Haitian babies do you want? My god, they are beautiful. Every one of them. I just can’t get over it. And they look so clean.”
Idiot. Seriously, I wanted to punch her in the face. I told my friend Chris, who responded, “As if the world is our own little cabbage patch…”
Now on to the Idaho idiots I want to punch: If you haven’t seen it on the news, ten Idaho Baptists went to Haiti, gathered up 33 children, and tried to take them across the border into the Dominican Republic without any paperwork. They have since been charged with child kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.
When I read the news as it broke on January 31st, I thought their motives were at the very least paternalistic and misguided. First, now is not the time to speed up adoptions from Haiti. Second, I don’t agree with their mission to convert those poor little voodoo babies (please note dripping sarcasm). Their website (since taken down) said “NLCR [New Life Children’s Refuge] is praying and seeking people who have a heart for God and a desire to share God’s love with these precious children, helping them heal and find new life in Christ.”
Then I read more. Their “Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission” was really meant to recruit children for international adoption. They had learned that there is a 60-90 day required residency period in the DR for adoptive parents, so they came up with a solution. Their website outlined their plans to build an orphanage in the DR, along with a seaside resort and restaurant that catered to American adoptive parents:
Future Buildings and Plans for NLCR in Magante
- Nueva Vida Refugio de Ninos: Provide a loving Christian home‐like environment for up to 200 children, both boys and girls, initially focused on ages 0 ‐ 10 years old, later expanding to include teens up to age 16.
- Nueva Vida Escuela Cristiana: Provide a solid education for children in the refuge as well as in the local community if have sufficient space/resources. Plan to begin with PreSchool/ Kindergarten up to 6th grade, teaching English/Spanish, Reading, Math, Science, History, Geography, Health, Music/Art, as well as Christian values/truths. Plan to add higher grades and courses on vocational skills when needed.
- Nueva Vida en Christo Capilla: On site Chapel for the children from the refuge and the community
- Sick Bay/Medical care: for incoming children that are in need minor medical care
- Greenhouse/Livestock: Provide for nutritional needs of the children by growing fruits and vegetables and raising cows/chickens for milk and eggs
- Seaside Villas at Playa Magante*: Villas for adopting parents to stay while fulfilling requirement for 60‐90 day visit as well as Christian volunteers/vacationing families…
- Seaside Café at Playa Magante*: small beachfront restaurant serving the community and adopting parents
I read even more. I learned that most of the children they were spiriting away to the DR were not even orphans. Though the group’s leader told officials the children were from a collapsed orphanage, it turns out they scoured a hillside village with a flyer of their new paradise resort, complete with color photos of the swimming pool, convincing parents to give up their children.
I read more. I said to some friends early on that I thought it pretty unrealistic for the Idaho Ten to be ignorant of Haitian laws since they had researched the laws of the Dominican Republic, and knew about that pesky 60-90 day waiting period. A day or so later, my thoughts were confirmed. I learned that they knew their actions were illegal. The Wall Street Journal reported:
New light was shed on the early activities of the missionaries by Anne-christine d’Adesky, a writer and human-rights activist from a prominent Haitian family who is a U.S. citizen. She emailed several U.N. authorities and said she met Laura Silsby, the leader of the American group, on Jan. 24 in a hotel in the Dominican Republic.
Ms. Silsby said her authorization to collect Haitian orphans and bring them to the Dominican Republic was from an unnamed Dominican official, according to Ms. d’Adesky’s email. “I informed her that this would be regarded as illegal even with some ‘Dominican’ minister authorizing, since the children are Haitian,” Ms. d’Adesky wrote, adding that she directed Ms. Silsby to U.N. agencies helping the Haitian government handle orphans and adoptions. In a telephone interview, Ms. d’Adesky said she recalled Ms. Silsby’s response: “We have been sent by the Lord to rescue these children, and if it’s in the Lord’s plan we will be successful.”
Ms. d’Adesky also told the U.N. officials that Ms. Silsby had planned to bring children back to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 25, four days before the group was arrested. She therefore urged the U.N. officials to “check on the orphanage” in the Dominican Republic because children might have been brought there before the group was arrested.
The next day the Wall Street Journal reported further evidence that The Ten knew their actions were illegal:
Carlos Castillo, the Dominican Republic’s consul general in Port-au-Prince, said in an interview that he met with the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, on Friday at the consulate in the Haitian capital and told her she lacked the documents to transport children.
She told Mr. Castillo she had applied to Dominican authorities for a permit to cross the border, he said. But Mr. Castillo checked and found no such application. “I told her I could authenticate Haitian documents but she had no Haitian documents of any sort,” said Mr. Castillo. “She told me she would try to reach the border in order to cross. I told her not to do that without the necessary documents because she could be accused of trafficking children.”
Mr. Castillo said that at the border Ms. Silsby showed Haitian authorities his business card and said he had authorized her to cross. Border authorities called him and he denied it.
Steve Hersey, director of the Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, said by email that he told Ms. Silsby’s group that their plan was “unconscionable” when they approached the school looking for help. He added, “It was clear they had little understanding of Haiti law and customs.”
I read more, and became further disgusted, when I learned that the group’s leader has had financial and legal troubles. The Idaho Statesman reported:
But even before Laura L. Silsby and seven other Idahoans ended up in a Haitian jail accused of trafficking in children, Silsby had a history of failing to pay debts, failing to pay her employees and failing even to follow Idaho laws.
Silsby has been the subject of eight civil lawsuits and 14 unpaid wage claims. The $358,000 Meridian house at which she founded her nonprofit New Life Children’s Refuge in November was foreclosed upon in December. A check of Silsby’s driving record revealed at least nine traffic citations since 1997, including four for failing to provide insurance or register annually.
Kind of makes it seem like she had reason to want to start a new “business” huh?
…the lawyer for all the defendants is putting the blame on the group’s leader.
Attorney Edwin Coq said Laura Silsby knew the group couldn’t remove the youngsters without proper paperwork, while he characterized the other nine missionaries as unknowingly being caught up in actions they didn’t understand.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get the nine out. They were naive. They had no idea what was going on and they did not know that they needed official papers to cross the border. But Silsby did,” Coq said Thursday after a magistrate charged the 10 at a closed hearing.
Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised that the Haitian government filed charges. I really thought they would bow to pressure from the US to release The Ten. I think charges against those nine will eventually be dropped, but I hope they stick it to Laura Silsby. I hope she is punished, and I hope it sends an example to other child traffickers.
(UPDATED: See Robin’s blog and comment below. Maybe Laura Silsby is not the only one to blame!)