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American Innocents Abroad
February 9, 2010 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Perhaps it seemed like a good idea at the time, but a combination of naïveté, ignorance, and blind faith led to ten Americans stuck in a Haitian prison for trying to take children out of the country without paperwork (see earlier discussion on the blue on this topic in regards to international adoptions). It seems that they were warned not to do it by a Dominican official, and now the Americans are starting to turn on each other. (And speaking of being warned, the US passport itself contains the warning "Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws...") The tragedy is that legitimate rescue groups are now unable or unwilling to risk airlifting critically ill children to hospitals in the US for fear of similar kidnapping charges. Has any supposed mission of mercy had such devastatingly tragic consequences? The latest twist is that the Americans are now complaining that the US government isn't doing enough, although the State Department points out that it's doing exactly what it is supposed to.

There's a long list of Americans jailed abroad who through ignorance or just stupidity are now serving lengthy jail times in less than pleasant surroundings. The US state department website on citizens arrested abroad is pretty clear on what they can and can't do. In particular, "A consular officer cannot ... demand the immediate release of a U.S. citizen arrested abroad or otherwise cause the citizen to be released", and most of their services are limited to contacting family members, providing medical supplies, and providing a list of local attorneys, and similar actions. At least it's not just the Americans who are so willfully stupid; three years ago it was six French charity workers in Chad who attempted to take 103 orphans (who weren't really orphans) out of war-torn Darfur (except they were actually Chadians). The French were arrested and sentenced to hard labor, but were pardoned the next year.
posted by math (142 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Has any supposed mission of mercy had such devastatingly tragic consequences?

Good lord, give me a break. Kidnapping is kidnapping.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:51 PM on February 9, 2010 [29 favorites]


"Laura Silsby is, unless the news has been uncharacteristically skewed against a white American Christian lady, a human trafficker. Another word for that is "slave trader".

...

Her plan involved claiming (both to authorities and her co-congregants, it seems) that she had documents giving her permission to take "100 Haitian children" out of Haiti and into the Dominican Republic, where she'd be able to put them up for adoption. Stop and think about that. 100 children. Not "the following children". Not "the individual children listed below". She was claiming to have permission to pick up 100 children and transport them across the border, where she would make money giving them to people.

She was claiming the right, in other words, to treat the children of Haiti... brown-colored children of a poor, non-Christian, non-American nation... as a commodity. An absolutely interchangeable commodity.

And... though she didn't really think this through... she obviously believed this claim was plausible. Anybody who was working with her who wasn't actually in on the scheme certainly found it perfectly believable. The authorities she dealt with on both sides of the Haitian/Dominican border were less persuaded."

posted by Pope Guilty at 5:54 PM on February 9, 2010 [53 favorites]


It's unfortunate that organizations that are transporting children not only legitimately but with (presumably) intent to return them to their families are being hindered by missionaries who failed to distinguish orphans from non-orphans. And it's also unfortunate that rescue groups linked to the US military (and who thus could be presumed to be a bit more trustworthy) are having to deal with sheaves of paperwork because of the actions of private citizens.
posted by DoktorFaustus at 5:55 PM on February 9, 2010


The editorial volume is making my ears ring, but this a really interesting post.

I'm sure the Law & Order staff writers are already taking notes.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:56 PM on February 9, 2010


Kidnapping is kidnapping.

This doesn't seem apparent to me. There's kidnapping for a ransom, a common crime in some developing Latin American countries, and at one point a not insignificant problem in the US. There's custody-related kidnapping, in which a non-custodial parent goes on the run with their child. Kidnapping can occur incidental to another crime, such as robbery or sexual assault. These are all very different instances of kidnapping, and I think the law should treat them differently. The case in question may be yet another distinct example.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Strange case. Under normal circumstances what she would have been doing would have been pretty fucked up, but at the same time for a lot of kids going abroad at this time would have been a good thing.

Still, there are certainly questions about how that could be arranged through legitimate means. If she was doing this as a for profit operation, then that's pretty fucked up. She was also, apparently, warned by people not to do this before she did it, and presumably assumed that the country was too damaged to impose any kind of law and order.
These are all very different instances of kidnapping, and I think the law should treat them differently. The case in question may be yet another distinct example.
I actually think "Kiddnapping children to sell them to unaware adoptive parents" is actually rather common as a form of human trafficking.
posted by delmoi at 6:03 PM on February 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


The tragedy is that legitimate rescue groups are now unable or unwilling to risk airlifting critically ill children to hospitals in the US for fear of similar kidnapping charges.

The laws these ten individuals broke seem to be in place for a good reason, given that the Dominican Republic is a hotbed for exploitation:

"In some nightclubs one can find brochures with pictures of naked children and phone numbers for taxi drivers that will take them to child prostitutes," said Maria Josefina Paulino of MAIS.

The commercial sexual exploitation of children is reported to be a problem in urban areas [of the Dominican Republic], as well as in tourist locations throughout the country including Boca Chica, Puerto Plata and Sosua. According to a study published by UNICEF and the National Planning Office in 1999, 75 percent of minors involved in prostitution were working in brothels, discos, restaurants, and hotels. There are reports that women and children are trafficked to, from, and within the Dominican Republic, particularly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. There are also reports that poor children are trafficked internally to work as domestics. Haitian children are reportedly trafficked to the Dominican Republic[1329] to work as prostitutes, shoe shiners, street vendors, in agriculture, and to beg in the streets.

In the Dominican Republic, there is a considerable population of minors for whom the streets have become home, who have faced a hostile world from an early age. Most "street children" beg as a means of subsistence; one-third turn to robbery and other means to get by, such as selling drugs; and approximately one-fifth engage in prostitution

In the section on sex tourism, the report refers to allegations that over 30,000 children in the Dominican Republic work as prostitutes to escape poverty. Most of these children no longer live with their parents because they have either been thrown out or prefer to work on the streets to earn a living for themselves or their families. Minors who engage in this trade are common in Santo Domingo and other tourist zones such as Boca Chica and Puerto Plata.

[T]he Dominican Republic has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography or the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Over the course of the meeting, Committee members commented that child prostitution was a double concern because of the involvement of children in prostitution and the increase in cases of HIV/AIDS; while tourism was encouraged as a source of income to the Dominican Republic, child prostitution was increasing parallel to it, the Experts said.

Trafficking and sexual exploitation of children also was a problem, particularly in popular tourist destinations. Poor adolescent girls and boys sometimes were enticed into performing sexual acts by the promise of food or clothing.


The whole of the natural disaster in Haiti is a tragedy. There is no need to worsen that tragedy by dismantling the very law and order the country needs not to only to help rebuild, but also to protect its youngest from a short and brutal life of slavery or sexual exploitation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?
posted by Salieri at 6:07 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, why did she want to open the orphanage in the Dominican republic? Surely, there were lots of places in Haiti that were not damage, couldn't she have set up shop there? And where was her funding?
posted by delmoi at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2010


mr_roboto: "These are all very different instances of kidnapping, and I think the law should treat them differently. The case in question may be yet another distinct example."

The usual right-wing Christian money will be made available to support lobbying for the kidnappers* to be tried in a white American court. Where the case can be appealed to the Roberts Supreme Court. Who will rule that child trafficking is protected corporate speech.

* You may want to read the entire article that PG linked to. I found it extremely persuasive.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:11 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, as I mentioned in another thread we really have no guarantee that these people were rescuing these children as opposed to selling them to pedophiles, or using them for PR while keeping them in substandard conditions.

They are white Christians. That doesn't mean their motives are good. White people participate in human trafficking all the time.
posted by kathrineg at 6:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't see any proof for the accusation that she's doing it for profit (made heavily by the blog post Pope Guilty linked to). Certainly nothing in the FPP indicates that. I could definitely believe, though, that the motivation was (as mentioned elsewhere in that post) "any child is better off with one of US than with one of THEM".

(in the US, intent would certainly matter in a case like this, just like it does with murder. I have no idea if that is the case in Haiti)
posted by wildcrdj at 6:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You may want to read the entire article that PG linked to. I found it extremely persuasive.

I'm getting an "adult content" warning from that link. Is it safe for work?
posted by mr_roboto at 6:14 PM on February 9, 2010


ohforfuckssake...

"...different instances of kidnapping."

The end result is the end result: a child is taken against their will, illegally.

Sure, fine, I'll play along. I'll snatch some kid from a bus stop, take him to my house, dress him up like a clown, then drop him off at a playground somewhere. In fact, I'll do it several times over a month.

Now, when I get arrested, what "instance" will this be filed under? Could I talk it down to a parking violation?

Trust me, none of this is cool, and the people who did it should be jailed just for being utterly stupid. There's a reason why our GIs over in the sand are drinking NA beer. Know the laws of the land and obey them. Seriously... where in the damn world can you fly in, snatch a few kids and be like "Some guy named Steve said this is okay, I'll forward you a copy of the e-mail. Caio!"?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:15 PM on February 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm getting an "adult content" warning from that link. Is it safe for work?

Yes. You can have LJ settings set to display that automatically, no matter what the post is about. It's SFW.
posted by Salieri at 6:15 PM on February 9, 2010


mr_roboto: "I'm getting an "adult content" warning from that link. Is it safe for work?"

I got it too. Content looks squeaky clean to me. Unless your boss is extremely sensitive about Christian missionaries, you should be good to go.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:16 PM on February 9, 2010


Also, why did she want to open the orphanage in the Dominican republic? Surely, there were lots of places in Haiti that were not damage, couldn't she have set up shop there? And where was her funding?

She had none. You might not have noticed but these are brown heathen-esque children from the THIRD WORLDS. They should be happy that these wonderful White American godly people can give them God's love. America, fuck yeah, the land of dreams. Just touching an American is an amazing privilege. How much more special it is to be trafficked by one! Wow! Food, a place to stay, a family--what are those things when compared to having your life Changed Forever by your encounter with a Christan American?
posted by kathrineg at 6:17 PM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


I love the "Why isn't the government doing MORE FOR ME?" thing. It's not like you interrupted a god damn DISASTER RELIEF effort, is it? Maybe the government has it's hands full at the moment, sorry if everyone is too busy trying to rebuild a nation to get you a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

That said: They seem to believe they were doing the right thing, righteously or not. I do wish they were more sympathetic, but the whole thing is 100% unfortunate and tragic and I don't think it will end happily at all.
posted by GilloD at 6:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now, when I get arrested, what "instance" will this be filed under? Could I talk it down to a parking violation?

As wildcrdj points out, the law cares about intent (as it should in the interest of justice). I think your penalty for the clown thing should be less severe than if you were also beating the child, or raping him. If you were a non-custodial parent of the child, and the child liked dressing up as a clown, it might make sense for the penalty to be even less severe.

I'm not saying that any crime committed in this case should be automatically forgiven; I'm saying that we should seek the truth and attempt to take context into account when deciding what is just.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Follow the money: Silsby is obviously a charismatic trainwreck who appears to have taken a lot of gullible folks down with her.
posted by webhund at 6:19 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?

They made a deal with the devil.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:20 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another way of putting it: many people in this thread seem to be think that there is a media or public perception that prejudges these people as innocent because they are white Christian Americans. This may be the case. We should be careful, however, to avoid the opposite bias, judging these people as guilty because they are rural, homeschooling, bible-college-educated, evangelicals.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:22 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Her plan involved claiming (both to authorities and her co-congregants, it seems) that she had documents giving her permission to take "100 Haitian children" out of Haiti and into the Dominican Republic, where she'd be able to put them up for adoption

Says who, other than some random LJ user? I find it hard to believe anything that LJ post says since no sources are cited.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:23 PM on February 9, 2010


Actually I'm judging these people as guilty because they are obviously guilty.

The whole "don't persecute the believers!!" thing is bullshit; I'm not going to some shitty bible college and calling them all kidnappers. I'm calling kidnappers kidnappers. Because they kidnapped people.
posted by kathrineg at 6:25 PM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


They made a deal with the devil.

Oh, Pat Robertson, you charming scalawag you. Are you dead yet?

But yeah, to clarify: what's up with the occasional (non-fundamentalist) reference to Haiti as a non-Christian nation, as above?
posted by Salieri at 6:25 PM on February 9, 2010


mr_roboto: "I'm not saying that any crime committed in this case should be automatically forgiven; I'm saying that we should seek the truth and attempt to take context into account when deciding what is just."

The "starting to turn on each other" link reports:
Divisions emerged within the group of 10 Americans jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges, with eight of them signing a note over the weekend saying that they had been misled by Laura Silsby, the leader of the group.

“Laura wants to control,” said the scribbled note handed to a producer for NBC News. “We believe lying. We’re afraid.”
Doesn't sound like a promising context to me.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2010


Salieri: "Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?"

This is a sign that someone involved in the conversation has framed the question in a strict Protestant viewpoint. It's a weird, doctrinal argument that will exhaust all but the most dogmatic.
posted by boo_radley at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another word for that is "slave trader".

And this is why we are screwed when newspapers die and shit like this LJ post will pass for "news". Did I miss something? Does everyone but me know that these children we going to be sold into slavery?
posted by MikeMc at 6:29 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


"I'm not saying that any crime committed in this case should be automatically forgiven; I'm saying that we should seek the truth and attempt to take context into account when deciding what is just."

Sure, I'll bite. If there intent was truly CHRISTIAN, answer the following:

1) Why had they not filed as an international adoption agency?
2) Why had they not filed for non-profit status in the United States
3) What were people who had no experience in child care/counseling going to do with a shitload of kids when the ORPHANAGE HADN'T EVEN BEEN BUILT YET? Were they just going to find a HoJos or a Motel 6 in the meantime?
4) Why the Dominican Republic?

I'm sorry. In my opinion, the Christian thing is potpourri. Their sin is rank, and its starting to stink to high heaven.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:29 PM on February 9, 2010 [13 favorites]


This is a sign that someone involved in the conversation has framed the question in a strict Protestant viewpoint.

I don't think so. I think it's a reference to the widespread practice of syncretic religions, like Vodou, in Haiti.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:30 PM on February 9, 2010


Salieri: "Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?"

Let's just say that the... complexion of worship in Haiti feels foreign to this country's Christian power structure.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:33 PM on February 9, 2010


It's very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt; even if their intentions were benign it reeks of opportunism of the "take advantage of the chaos to grab some kids" sort. Using the disaster as cover for rounding up kids indiscriminately for "rescue" purposes is better than for than doing it for exploitative purposes, but only on a scale of complete fucked-uppedness.

And even apart from all that, diverting the facilities, transportation and high-level personnel of three countries to deal with this shit instead of taking care of the actual disaster ought to be worth a few criminal charges in itself.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:36 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might not have noticed but these are brown heathen-esque children from the THIRD WORLDS. They should be happy that these wonderful White American godly people can give them God's love. America, fuck yeah, the land of dreams.

Damn right. No wait, um...fuck those Haitians, let them wallow in their self-induced squalor or something. No, that's not right. America sucks, keep the Haitians and other brown third worlders as far away from America and Americans as possible so they don't get enslaved. I shudder to think of how the Haitians are being exploited at those hospitals in Miami, probably having their organs harvested or something.
posted by MikeMc at 6:38 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's just say that the... complexion of worship in Haiti feels foreign to this country's Christian power structure.

Also, Haiti = Voodoo, remember.
posted by johnnybeggs at 6:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wanted to second the call for sources, such as references to this:

Her plan involved claiming (both to authorities and her co-congregants, it seems) that she had documents giving her permission to take "100 Haitian children" out of Haiti

This is juicy stuff, and it's the first I've heard of it. (I may have read the links too quickly, so I may have missed something.)

I think it's a reference to the widespread practice of syncretic religions, like Vodou, in Haiti.

This is what I was wondering. But given that (going by statistics) most Haitians seem to self-identify as Christian (with or without regional variations), it strikes me as a little off somehow to say "non-Christian nation". Like they're not allowed to define for themselves who they are? Like someone on LJ can just sit back and say, "Nope, not really Christian." It just rubs me the wrong way.
posted by Salieri at 6:40 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


it reeks of opportunism of the "take advantage of the chaos to grab some kids" sort

Just a heads up George... I believe one of the articles said there were 2 or more people who had been arrested PRIOR to the earthquake.

I think the opportunism is the manner in which they have been grouped in with the chaos, when they may have been adding to it before the fault lines split.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:41 PM on February 9, 2010


MikeMc: "I shudder to think of how the Haitians are being exploited at those hospitals in Miami, probably having their organs harvested or something."

I wonder if you'd feel the same way if it was Chinese missionaries snatching American children for a better life in a country where health insurance is $7 a year.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:45 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


>Why the Dominican Republic?

That's actually easy to answer: you can drive to the DR from Haiti.

Reporting on this in Canada has definitely focused on the "snatching children off the street" aspect, and the fact that several of the children were actively protesting as they were picked up that their parents were alive and right over there.
posted by djfiander at 6:47 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


mr_roboto: "
I don't think so. I think it's a reference to the widespread practice of syncretic religions, like Vodou, in Haiti.
"

Yes, easily. I really shouldn't have phrased my response so broadly, even though Catholicism is one of Vodou's source beliefs.
posted by boo_radley at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2010


where health insurance is $7 a year.

Ah yes, sweeping our poor children away to the land of lead and melamine to pursue a better life slaving away on the Foxconn iPhone assembly line.
posted by MikeMc at 6:50 PM on February 9, 2010


"I shudder to think of how the Haitians are being exploited at those hospitals in Miami, probably having their organs harvested or something."

Or harvested outside New York City.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:52 PM on February 9, 2010


We should be careful, however, to avoid the opposite bias, judging these people as guilty because they are rural, homeschooling, bible-college-educated, evangelicals.

Too late for me on that one, I'm afraid. Except for the rural part, everything else seems red-flag worthy for trouble.
posted by docpops at 6:54 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


GilloD: I love the "Why isn't the government doing MORE FOR ME?" thing. It's not like you interrupted a god damn DISASTER RELIEF effort, is it? Maybe the government has it's hands full at the moment, sorry if everyone is too busy trying to rebuild a nation to get you a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

That said: They seem to believe they were doing the right thing, righteously or not. I do wish they were more sympathetic, but the whole thing is 100% unfortunate and tragic and I don't think it will end happily at all.
One wrinkle to consider is that maybe the US Government really should prioritize helping US Citizens over Haitians.

From what I'm gleaning, it sounds like there's some serious questions about Silsby's real motivations, but the rest were not necessarily aware of the legal issues and were just trying to be good people. And I do think that the US government should be doing more to help them, at the very least ensuring that they aren't suffering cruel and unusual punishment while in a Haitian jail (perhaps unfairly, I'd imagine a country with a $480 per capita income is not going to have the kindest, cleanest jails)- seeing as helping Haitians is a nice thing to do, but not what we particularly pay taxes for.

They shouldn't get a "get out of jail free" card, but I'd hope one of the privileges of being American is that your government will help ensure due process and fair treatment when you're in a foreign land, because if not then Americans would be absolutely right to be utterly xenophobic.
posted by hincandenza at 6:58 PM on February 9, 2010


MikeMc: "Ah yes, sweeping our poor children away to the land of lead and melamine to pursue a better life slaving away on the Foxconn iPhone assembly line."

Wait... you mean that the Chinese might be wrong in their belief that theirs is a better way of life? Doesn't that mean they wouldn't be justified in unilaterally snatching our children?

I'm all confused now.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:05 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


hincandenza, it seems that the US gov't is indeed ensuring that the 10 Americans are not suffering unduly in the Haitian jail (although given that the Americans have (occasional) food, water, and shelter, there are probably plenty of homeless, starving Haitians who would gladly trade places with them). I see nothing here that suggests the Americans are not receiving as fair a process as any Haitian would.

In other news, The Idaho press quotes an unconfirmed CNN report that the 10 Americans were stopped a few days before their arrest when they tried to do the same thing. If true, this means that the Americans really should have known that this was a Bad Idea.
posted by math at 7:13 PM on February 9, 2010


Wait... you mean that the Chinese might be wrong in their belief that theirs is a better way of life? Doesn't that mean they wouldn't be justified in unilaterally snatching our children?
I'm all confused now.


Seriously dude? I know you're trying to make a point and all but we're talking Haiti here. Haiti is a failed state, there is no "better way of life" to be had there. As bleak as it sounds there is no brighter future awaiting Haiti. The international attention will shift elsewhere very soon (the attention has died down considerably already) and Haiti will go back to being fucked as usual, as always. The only future awaiting those children in Haiti is one of poverty, chaos, disease and violence. Watch this if you ever get the chance, you may find it informative.
posted by MikeMc at 7:18 PM on February 9, 2010


I think they legitimately were trying to help, but in their minds, an uncivilized third world country has no legal system that would possibly have any jurisdiction over anything they decided to do. This is because they (and the media) created an infantilized fantasy image of Haitians that was extremely effective in tugging on their heart strings and moving them to act, but that also resulted in very, very stupid actions.

It's not just Christian groups either. The majority are probably donating money and keeping themselves busy with pointless prayer vigils. But how many left-wing idiots with no particular useful skills in disaster relief have the sudden urge to run over there to Do Something, as if every single able-bodied Haitian is buried under rubble? Maybe we need some kind of internet button for these people to click on all day to make them feel useful.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:18 PM on February 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, hincandenza, it would be awful if government agents tortured them to death in a secret extralegal hellhole, for example, as I understand happens to suspects in some barbaric nations.
posted by No-sword at 7:22 PM on February 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?

Baptist fundies don't like "papists."
posted by Ironmouth at 7:22 PM on February 9, 2010


I think they legitimately were trying to help, but in their minds, an uncivilized third world country has no legal system that would possibly have any jurisdiction over anything they decided to do.

Well, they are finding out that the Hatian legal system indeed has jurisdiction. These people are engaging in criminally negligent behavior. Punishment for them would be just.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:25 PM on February 9, 2010


Put another way, imagine Hatians leading white "adopted" kids out of the country during Katrina or something. Now, how do American's feel about it? Just a mistake? They were trying to do the right thing? Those people would go down into the hole for that, "good intentions" aside.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:27 PM on February 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sure as god judged Haiti, and found them wanting, he will judge these poor deluded members of his chosen flock.

For their sake one can only hope he's in a better mood. /sarcasm off.
posted by Max Power at 7:29 PM on February 9, 2010


I don't think we know enough either way to be sure what is happening here. I would be curious to know whether they had already lined up adoptions, and if so, what trends emerge there. I'll admit to the ungenerous thought, on initially hearing this, that it was part of a scheme to get slave labor for the Idaho survivalist cults.
posted by troybob at 7:33 PM on February 9, 2010


Why do people care about their intent? There may be instances where we may want our justice system to care about the intent of criminals - but certainly that must be for purposes of deterrence. Beyond that, a concern about intent tends to reflect a judicial system created by the perpetrators of violence and not their victims.* If I am a Calvinist and believe in predestination and therefore beat the living shit out of a homeless person because I believe that it will spend up that person's already-determined place in the afterlife, do you think the homeless person cares about the intensity of my subjective belief? If I continually have sex with women against their will but honestly believe that no means yes, does that truly matter to those whom I've violated?

Who cares what these people believed, honestly or not. Who cares if some were mislead by a charlatan and others were ringleaders. Nobody made them get on a plane and fly down to Haiti for the purpose of snatching children off the streets without anything resembling cover other than a fervent belief in God. This is not a crime where their religiosity matters. We should treat this one as a straightforward case of trafficking - which would be better than the way that any of these 10 would have treated a Muslim who looked sideways at one of their children.

This is largely indistinguishable from the Scott Roeder trial. He murdered a hero because he thought God wanted him to do so. If you think Roeder should not have gotten special consideration for a decade-long plan to assassinate George Tiller in the name of his God, why are these people any different?

* Which would generally be all judicial systems. The victors not only write the history but they make the laws too.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:34 PM on February 9, 2010 [12 favorites]


For the same reasons there are good Samaritan laws, a.s. If I pull someone out of a burning car and in the process injure them further, I am not charged with battery. To these people, they may have believed they were being good Samaritans, pulling kids out of a burning country.
posted by hincandenza at 7:39 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


If their intentions were good and they just did something stupid, the judge should take that into consideration when sentencing them.

Maybe this is going to be an unpopular thing to say, but our issues with Christians shouldn't prevent us from insisting they are treated fairly.
posted by AlsoMike at 7:39 PM on February 9, 2010


MikeMc: " The only future awaiting those children in Haiti is one of poverty, chaos, disease and violence."

In all likelihood.

But you're continuing to miss the point. The law - that quaint pre-9/11 artifact that some of us are still sentimentally attached to - does not give these people the right to ameliorate Haiti's suffering by this recourse. In fact, it defines that recourse as a serious felony to be punished by lengthy prison sentences. And for very good reasons. [see above: slavery, prostitution]

And for what it's worth, this kind of exceptionalist conviction that the imposition of American will is in the lesser order's best interests is - as they say - Why They Hate Us.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


And I do think that the US government should be doing more to help them, at the very least ensuring that they aren't suffering cruel and unusual punishment while in a Haitian jail

I find statement like this mystifying. Is there any indication that the U.S. government is not doing so? If not, what more do you think the U.S. government should be doing?
posted by lalex at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2010


ah - but Good Samaritan laws are subject to an objective observer test as well as limited to certain legally cognizable situations. I may honestly believe that homeschooling children is bad for them, but if I had gone to Idaho and kidnapped these 10 "missionaries" children - well, that's not exactly going to get me a lessor charge, now is it? Indeed, should taking the law into one's own hands mercenary-style be something we want to discourage?
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:46 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Inasmuch as pretty much all of us in the thread are ignorant of the full facts, I'm not deterred from adding my two cents' worth. But if I may offer a perspective as a former missions director and senior manager of missionaries, this seems like a thorougly plausible, well-intentioned cock-up by missionaries who but didn't think they needed to follow the rules or do any serious planning.

I cannot tell you - I mean, I seriously cannot tell you - how pervasive is this kind of thing in missionary circles. Someone with little or no experience in community development in a foreign context gets a wild hair about doing something for the poor downtrodden, mixes it in with some "white man's burden" and a religious fervor that is immune to constructive criticism, convinces a group of folksto tag along and help out, while raising enough funds to pull it off. It doesn't take as much effort as you'd imagine, especially when much of the evangelical movement is geared toward "raising up" people to do exactly this sort of thing.

Let me say, at the outset, that there are many, MANY extraordinarily well-planned, culturally sensitive and administratively scrupulous missionary projects. (I know of some going on in Haiti right now.) But there are at least as many projects led by people with only a bundle of good intentions, a religious zeal and a dangerous sense of spiritual entitlement and immunity to temporal laws or that whole "planning" thing.

The cowboy mentality, the swaggering into a culturally complex situation and stepping all over plans that have preceded them and a lot of hard work by others, the practice of sending relative neophytes who have little foreign travel or cultural sensitivity skills or training. The mentality that temporal laws, foreign officials and even other missionaries are to be treated like obstacles to overcome in their work for the Lord.

(I don't mean to offend, but it is a fact that many Southern Baptists are NOTORIOUS among the missionary community overseas for behaving this way.)

This whole situation gives off a very familiar odor. I doubt it's intended to be human trafficking, but I can well imagine this as the result of a half-baked missionary project coupled with an attitude that the rules just don't apply to them because they're serving the Lord. Usually, when this happens, the worst that occurs is they leave behind some seriously ruffled feathers. This time, though, they were caught in a criminal act.
posted by darkstar at 7:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [43 favorites]


Of course they should be treated fairly. But the fact remains that what they did is child trafficking. These people may have had the best intentions in the world, but what they did is exactly what traffickers do. They used the same methods. The laws they broke are important, and designed to prevent terrible abuses. You do not break them because you think you know better.
posted by Nothing at 7:49 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd hope one of the privileges of being American is that your government will help ensure due process and fair treatment when you're in a foreign land

Uh...look, I don't want to be the guy taking cheap shots but something about this statement looks very, very wrong to me.
posted by Kirk Grim at 7:50 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have no issues with Christians (in this particular instance), I have issues with people too stupid &/or self-righteous to bother realizing that there's a right way and a wrong way to go about philanthropy. Whatever their intentions, the way they're being treated IS fair based upon their ridiculous actions.

This group was too ignorant to realize that transporting a bunch of foreign minors across international borders would require a fuckton of paperwork and legal hoops through which to jump. I wouldn't trust them with a box of hamsters.
posted by elizardbits at 7:51 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is largely indistinguishable from the Scott Roeder trial.

I swear every fucking analogy on here today is batshit insane.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 PM on February 9, 2010


For the same reasons there are good Samaritan laws

In Haiti also? You're sure about it?
posted by c13 at 7:51 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe this is going to be an unpopular thing to say, but our issues with Christians shouldn't prevent us from insisting they are treated fairly.

Whose issues with Christians? Is this some sort of weird alterna-US where Christians aren't privileged over people of every other (and no) religion?
posted by kathrineg at 7:53 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if I saw a kid in a car wreck and then decided that their parents weren't wealthy enough and used the car wreck as an excuse to take the kid to Canada, I doubt Good Samaritan laws would apply. These people didn't, say, accidentally give kids poisoned water, which would be a Good Samaritan situation.
posted by kathrineg at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2010


MetaFilter: some sort of weird alterna-US where Christians aren't privileged over people of every other (and no) religion
posted by The Tensor at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2010


The Haitian prime minister expresses his frustration at the media attention on American missionaries accused of illegally trying to take children out of the quake-hit country.
posted by idiomatika at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just love this pervasive attitude I've been hearing of "Well, duh we kidnapped them. We're bringing them out of ignorance to the greatest land on Earth! They'll be grateful one day!"

There's just something so .... 19th Century slave-trade-ish about it.

I seem to recall that the number one argument in favor of slavery back then was that far from being bondage, slavery was an enormous step up for the African, who spent his days naked and shivering in the diseased jungle.

It seems that the slave-trading impulse in our society never really went away, that it just sublimated itself into other areas and activities. Honestly, despite being horrified at the prospect, I'm not really sure how to react to that realization.
posted by Avenger at 7:58 PM on February 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sorry, but only Madonna is allowed to steal people's children. It's like a UN provision or something? Look it up. Are you Madonna? No. No, you are not.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:01 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Somebody:
For the same reasons there are good Samaritan laws, a.s. If I pull someone out of a burning car and in the process injure them further, I am not charged with battery. To these people, they may have believed they were being good Samaritans, pulling kids out of a burning country.

Somebody else:
If their intentions were good and they just did something stupid, the judge should take that into consideration when sentencing them.

Maybe this is going to be an unpopular thing to say, but our issues with Christians shouldn't prevent us from insisting they are treated fairly.


The first comment is complete nonsense (to be as polite as possible) and I'm hoping the second comment is meant to be satire. Seriously. Ignorance of the law is now excuse, Dick Tracy Crimestoppers Handbook, circa 1950. These people are human traffickers. Period.
posted by lordrunningclam at 8:03 PM on February 9, 2010


*no excuse*
posted by lordrunningclam at 8:08 PM on February 9, 2010


Whose issues with Christians? Is this some sort of weird alterna-US where Christians aren't privileged over people of every other (and no) religion?

US politics is a race between groups to claim the status of Biggest Victim. Maybe this is the country's founding idea? What you've said is empty political posturing, equivalent to the Teabaggers' librul meedia persecution complex.
posted by AlsoMike at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2010


You claim that someone is using their problem with Christians to keep these people from getting the help they need. I ask: who has this problem with Christians?
posted by kathrineg at 8:13 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to keep a level head about this, and reserve my judgement until more facts on the case come out. I'm sure these people are very scared and confused and uncomfortable right now, and I have some sympathy. I hope the judicial process in Haiti (which has much more important things to deal with right now) is able to sort out the criminal from the stupid and send the stupid back to Idaho with nothing more than a mild case of diarrhea.

But honestly, with quotes like these, it's like the Irony Train derailed somewhere between Schadenfreudeberg and Lulzville.
NYT: Mr. Lankford said the group filled 15 large plastic bins with [donations of clothing, diapers, baby formula and toys] and paid more than $1,000 in extra luggage costs for their flight to the Dominican Republic.

“Those are not things that criminals take and pay to do it anyhow,” he said, adding that his daughter-in-law and granddaughter packed only small bags for themselves.
Wow. They went into a disaster zone packing like they were having a weekend in the Caribbean ... did they think they were going to just get water from the 7-11 and groceries from Safeway? Freaking Medicins Sans Frontieres were caught off-guard by the lack of infrastructure in PaP, and they brought a cargo plane full of equipment.
CNN: A CNN reporter attempted to get reaction to Castillo's comment from the jailed Americans, but they would not discuss the matter, responding to questions by singing "Amazing Grace" and praying.
Despite what Fox News might have led you to believe, the CNN reporter was not there to waterboard you. He was there to give you plenty of free press to plead your case.
NYT:“Help us,” one of the detainees, Carla Thompson, said Monday as she lay on a bed in a scorching Port-au-Prince jail cell of about 8 feet by 5 feet, her ankles bandaged from infected mosquito bites. “That’s the message I would give to Mr. Obama and the State Department. Start helping us.”
Americans travelling abroad, particularly privileged Americans, are frequently surprised by just how little the US Government will help you when you're in jail in a foreign country. Shockingly, our country's wealth and power and prestige do not magically make that drug trafficking charge disappear as soon as you show your passport. Your embassy's only responsibility is to make sure you're not tortured, give you a list of local lawyers' phone numbers, and repatriate your remains once you're executed.

HA HA. Just kidding. They probably won't bother about your physical safety in jail. Aren't there some NGOs or something that take care of that?

Also, for extra points: a Christian conservative from the rural US pleading for the federal government to come and save her from her own colossal fuckup. It's a depressing coda to a perfect storm of arrogance, entitlement, and foolishness; one that led these rubes to attempt to take children from their families, language, and culture with the intent to export them to God's Country and become Christian lifestyle trophies.

Now finally, to be fair, a quote from the State Department that I cannot believe was said with a straight face:
CNN: "As to intervening directly in the case, we are very respectful of the Haitian government and of Haitian law."
Tell that to Aristide. The popular democratically-elected president that we deposed five years ago.
posted by xthlc at 8:38 PM on February 9, 2010 [32 favorites]


Why do people care about their intent? There may be instances where we may want our justice system to care about the intent of criminals - but certainly that must be for purposes of deterrence

This is not our justice system. It is Haiti's.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:48 PM on February 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sourcing for the claim of 100 orphans, from the horse's mouth:

"The Plan:
Rescue Orphans from Port Au Prince, Haiti
....Sun Jan 23rd: Drive bus from Santo Domingo into Port au Prince, Haiti and gather 100 orphans from the streets and collapsed orphanages, then return to the DR"

"New Life Children's Refuge is a non-profit Christian ministry dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God's love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ. We will strive to also equip each child with a solid education and vocational skills as well as opportunities for adoption into a loving Christian family."

Source: Eastside Baptist Church website, PDF describing Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission.
posted by katemonster at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


what's really irking me, as demonstrated by some of the npr phone in shows, is that there's this 'how dare we send all this wealth to haiti when we're suffering here at home' meme going about. sorry if somebody pointed this out upthread; i've been reading in fits and starts
posted by angrycat at 9:04 PM on February 9, 2010


Well, for a first hand account of what went down at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, take a look at this video via CBS of Silsby lying straightfaced to a Haitian official while children were crying for their parents in the background.
posted by jeanmari at 9:07 PM on February 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


p.s. I'm Christian, American and a prospective adoptive parent. Silsby needs to sit in jail in Haiti until they've investigated this case. Period.
posted by jeanmari at 9:08 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is largely indistinguishable from the Scott Roeder trial.

Dude. Indistinguishable?

You can't think of some fucking bright red line distinctions?

I don't know what you're doing upstairs, but it's not actually thinking if you really think that statement holds up to any kind of examination.
posted by namespan at 9:15 PM on February 9, 2010


You're getting caught up on the word this. This type of defendant-focused meta-analysis that obsesses over religious motivation for a certain type of crime, well, is largely indistinguishable.

There are are crimes where intent should matter. If one were designing a legal system, ours or not, these are things which could be seriously debated. Having someone confess to all of the essential elements of a crime, including premeditation, and having their only defense be "but I'm a good Christian who thought he/she was doing the Lord's work, honest!" well, that seems somewhat familiar to me.

Both perpetrators planned a crime far in advance and ignored the law because they believed they were motivated to do what they believed was God's work. (Allegedly but apparently without dispute in the second case). If you were to design a judicial system - should this matter?
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:22 PM on February 9, 2010


It's like trying to rob a bank with a banana. Yes, you were spectacularly misguided and ignorant of the relevant facts, but you still tried to rob a fucking bank!
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 9:33 PM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


But GOD will prevail, as we were guided so by HIM. Our work is GOD's work.

Um huh.
posted by ericb at 9:39 PM on February 9, 2010


By the way, there are other contemporary cases of Silsby-like behavior for US adoption cases. Such as Focus on Children in Samoa. Or Christian World Adoption in Ethiopia.

There are some wonderful, incredible and ethical agencies doing work in other countries for children. Agencies that also build schools and hospitals, provide community support to keep families together, and truly view adoption as a last resort.

And there are the Laura Silsby's and Michelle Gardner's and Scott/Karen Bank's of the world who flash Christian credentials and expect not to be questioned when they engage in questionable activities. And, sadly, many people are duped by this because they are, frankly, not smart enough to say "Hey, wait a minute..." It's pretty sick.
posted by jeanmari at 9:40 PM on February 9, 2010


I think what allen.spaulding was trying to say is that we have two individuals who who both have an absolute unquestioning faith, not so much in God, but in the notion that their plan is exactly what God wants them to do, no mater how idiotic, twisted or just plain fucked up it might be.

Laura Silsby is not a cold blooded killer. She may even have the very best intentions in her heart. Unfortunately she's a crazy cat lady for values of cat equal to Haitian children! As someone pointed out up-thread, they went into a disaster area equipped for a weekend in the Caribbean. Given that level of planning I suspect that if the authorities hadn't stopped her this would have ended more or less like a lot of other crazy cat lady stories I've heard (which are generally pretty disgusting and always seem to include the number of dead cats found in the freezer).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:04 PM on February 9, 2010


I think it would be awesome if there was some worldwide "child abductor" status put on people like there is a "sex offender" status. Those people should have to live on an island that always gets a bad rap. Oh yeah...Haiti.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:39 PM on February 9, 2010


type of defendant-focused meta-analysis that obsesses over religious motivation for a certain type of crime, well, is largely indistinguishable

Having someone confess to all of the essential elements of a crime, including premeditation, and having their only defense be "but I'm a good Christian who thought he/she was doing the Lord's work, honest!"

Sure, there's a commonality in the religious motivation. But if you can't distinguish between religious motivation to kill and religious motivation to violate border control laws in the course of a recognizably charitable if misguided operation, well, you're clearly amongst those obsessing over the religious motivation.

And would you similarly see little difference between famous acts of civil disobedience in which the actors also "sometimes confess[ed] to all of the essential elements of a crime, including premeditation" with their only defense their cause and, say, Roeder's actions? Because I think the particular cause and the particular actions both matter.

The people involved in this case didn't believe God wanted them to kill anyone, they believed that God wanted them to get out into the world and help people. Hell, most of them believed it was someone else's job to take care of the legal issues and that they were being attended to. So far from what I've read, it appears that one of them apparently believed the legal issues were less important than executing her personal plan for helping out. She's wrong, of course, her good intentions don't erase her obligations to respect the law on a pragmatic level and regard the principles behind it. But that doesn't make what she did indistinguishable from murder. Or, for that matter, dragging them out of the country to sell to a brothel.
posted by namespan at 1:35 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Baptists are mere "detainees", not prisoners and as such need no further help. As I and many other Americans have learned from the Gitmo experience, being "detained" is innocuous and freedom-respecting. Band-aids on your mosquito bites? Like she wouldn't have that even if she wasn't in prison!

"Help us"??? Sounds like these Baptist detainees have it pretty soft, if you ask me.
posted by telstar at 2:09 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sure, there's a commonality in the religious motivation. But if you can't distinguish between religious motivation to kill and religious motivation to violate border control laws in the course of a recognizably charitable if misguided operation abduct children because they'll be better of in proper christian households instead of becoming Papists, well, you're clearly amongst those obsessing over the religious motivation.

There, fixed that for you.
posted by vivelame at 2:20 AM on February 10, 2010


Oh and, if we go the way of "they are better of in the US", well, let's take a look at infant mortality rate.
I believe in doing good, shouldn't i go to the US (7.8 under-five deaths per 1000 live births) and snatch a hundred children, some of them orphans, some not, some crying to go back to their parents, and bring them to France (5.2) or even better, Iceland (3.9) to be adopted? And if i get caught, would any of you defending these bible-thumping morons extend *me* the same courtesy? I mean, it's for the children, why should i go to jail?
Yeah, didn't think so.
posted by vivelame at 2:30 AM on February 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Says who, other than some random LJ user? I find it hard to believe anything that LJ post says since no sources are cited.

"I said what happened, and she [Silsby] told me, 'I have the paperwork to cross the Haitian-Dominican border with 100 children,' " the officer said. A former attorney for the group, Edwin Coq, said the officer has testified of his account. CNN, linked from that LJ post (at "it turns out she was let off with a warning the first time").
posted by rory at 2:38 AM on February 10, 2010


But if you can't distinguish between religious motivation to kill and religious motivation to violate border control laws in the course of a recognizably charitable if misguided operation, well, you're clearly amongst those obsessing over the religious motivation.

Violate border control? They were not trying to bring a few mangoes across national borders! They kidnapped children!

The analogy to Roeder is actually nearly perfect. Roeder is to justifiable homicide in defense of self or loved ones what these schmucks are to proper adoption of orphans. That is to say, completely misguided and using "doing God's work" as a catch-all defense.

It doesn't matter that their intended goals might have been noble, their execution of their plan violated the rights and dignities of hundreds of individuals, and to a degree, the Haitian people as a whole. They'd essentially declared Haitians as sub-humans, and they were literally trafficking them.
posted by explosion at 4:30 AM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are are crimes where intent should matter. If one were designing a legal system, ours or not, these are things which could be seriously debated. Having someone confess to all of the essential elements of a crime, including premeditation, and having their only defense be "but I'm a good Christian who thought he/she was doing the Lord's work, honest!" well, that seems somewhat familiar to me.

Both perpetrators planned a crime far in advance and ignored the law because they believed they were motivated to do what they believed was God's work. (Allegedly but apparently without dispute in the second case). If you were to design a judicial system - should this matter?


Alan, I see what you're trying to say, but I don't think you have the legal definition of Intent quite right. In criminal law, "intent" is really narrow. You can distinguish intent from motive. Motive is "I'm going to kill this guy because he's performing abortions." Intent is more like "The defendant purposely pulled the trigger, knowing that the gun would shoot Dr. Tiller in the head." Intent is required only with regards to the actus reus (the bad act) element of the crime, and not with regards to the reasons behind the bad act. A finding that the murderer intended to pull the trigger, either with the purpose, knowledge, or reckless disregard of the fact that doing so would kill Tiller, is sufficient, in most US Jurisdictions, to find him guilty of first degree murder.

The "intent" that you refer to ('I was being a good Christian') is more like "motive", and while such a motive might be raised as an excuse, it doesn't, legally, negate the crime. We already don't let the motive take much weight in our decisions about the actual commission of an act, so I think that some of your position is a little bit overstated.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 6:27 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone who thinks that Silsby had any intentions other than "adopting" these kids out for ten grand a pop for "administrative fees" is a grade-A sucker. The orphanage is a ruse, and I'm continually disgusted as how easily everyone falls for this "oh it was Christian charity" bullshit.

Motherfuckers, do you think that con artists don't know all they have to do is say "Christian charity" to make you fall all over yourselves to excuse and ignore criminal behavior? There's a reason those Nigerian emails end with YOURS IN CHRIST, MINISTER REVEREND DR SUSAN JONES. There's a reason there are about two thousand different scams where a grifter pretends to be a preacher or priest. And there's a reason that every one of this woman's failed schemes revolve around faith in Jesus.

I don't know what this woman believes. I don't know if she's a "real" Christian or just pretending. It doesn't matter. She is a coyote. She is a human trafficker. She was going to sell those children. And I hope that she rots in jail until the day she dies.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:51 AM on February 10, 2010 [16 favorites]


Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?

"One common saying is that Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent voodoo." *
posted by ericb at 8:09 AM on February 10, 2010


Very sketchy, indeed.
"Silsby didn't appear to have a plan in place to house the 33 children in her charge until she had already collected them, according to a report in a Dominican Republic newspaper.

A Catholic bishop reluctantly agreed to rent Silsby 45 rooms in a former three-star hotel the Catholic Church has been using to train underprivileged children and to provide retreats for Catholic clergy, the Listin Diario reported. The Baptists were to pay for six months to house the children the Americans were bringing from Haiti.

Bishop Julio Cesar Corniel Amaro agreed to rent the rooms after being told of the urgent need to find a place to house the children, who were then headed to the Dominican Republic in a bus, the paper said.

....The fliers that American Baptists from New Life Children's Refuge brought to the village of Callebas promised a beautiful place for the children to live, with a soccer field, a swimming pool and a short walk to the ocean.

'We want to help Haitian children who have lost their mother and father in the earthquake or have no one to love and care for them,' read the flier that the parents received.

'We have authorization from the government to bring orphaned children, babies up to 10 years, to our orphanage in the DR. Haitian friends and relatives can come to the DR and visit the children and get updates through our Web site.'

It didn't matter that the flier was in English or that few families here could afford the visas to travel to the Dominican Republic or Internet access to check New Life's Web site.

For Frisner Valmont and others here, it was a simple decision.

'All the families are victims, all the houses were destroyed, so we have no choice,' said Valmont, who chose to send his 8-year-old daughter, Alentina, with the Americans.

Since the arrest of the Americans, the 33 children have been living just outside Port-au-Prince in an orphanage run by the Austrian charity SOS Children's Villages. Some of them have been visited by their families, but whether they will be reunited with their relatives is up to the country's child welfare authorities.

'The children, if you ask them, most of them say,"I want to go back with my parents,"' said George Willeit, who works for the charity that runs the SOS Children's Villages."
posted by ericb at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2010


But if I may offer a perspective as a former missions director and senior manager of missionaries, this seems like a thorougly plausible, well-intentioned cock-up by missionaries who but didn't think they needed to follow the rules or do any serious planning.

The law has a term for this--criminal negligence. There is no excuse or relief for this behavior. These people need some punishment.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:34 AM on February 10, 2010


Tape Shows Haiti Police Questioning Silsby
"While the interrogation was being conducted, outside in the hallway, many of the 33 Haitian children found in the missionaries' custody were crying for their mothers - crying to go home."
[video].
posted by ericb at 8:36 AM on February 10, 2010


Follow the money.
Woman in Haitian adoption mission has struggling creditors in Boise.
posted by ericb at 8:39 AM on February 10, 2010


This woman is a wolf in jesus clothing.
posted by Aquaman at 8:42 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Silsby set up New Life Children's Refuge (NLCR) in November 2009.
"The charity...is 'dedicated to rescuing, loving and caring for orphaned, abandoned and impoverished Haitian and Dominican children, demonstrating God's love and helping each child find healing, hope, joy and new life in Christ'...But after the disaster, the mission's aim became to 'rescue Haitian orphans abandoned on the streets, makeshift hospitals or from collapsed orphanages in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas, and bring them to New Life Children's Refuge in Cabarete, Dominican Republic", the charity stated in an online document.'"
From the group's mission document:
"Friday/Saturday,
Jan
22nd
:
NLCR
team
fly
to
the
DR

Sun
Jan
23rd:
Drive
bus
from
Santo
Domingo
into
Port
au
Prince,
Haiti
and
gather
100
orphans
from
the
streets
and
collapsed
orphanages,
then
return
to
the
DR...

Given
the
urgent
needs
from
this
earthquake,
God
has
laid
upon
our
hearts
the
need
to
go
now...

...NLCR
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."
So, they thought they could sweep into Haiti, pick up kids and drive them to DR in one day. Really?
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on February 10, 2010


These people were a group of idiots who thought that their American citizenship gives them carte blanche to go into another country and violate its sovereignty. No matter who the leader is, I hope they all get very long jail sentences.
posted by reenum at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cannot tell you - I mean, I seriously cannot tell you - how pervasive is this kind of thing in missionary circles. Someone with little or no experience in community development in a foreign context gets a wild hair about doing something for the poor downtrodden, mixes it in with some "white man's burden" and a religious fervor that is immune to constructive criticism, convinces a group of folksto tag along and help out, while raising enough funds to pull it off. It doesn't take as much effort as you'd imagine, especially when much of the evangelical movement is geared toward "raising up" people to do exactly this sort of thing.

Great point.

What is most interesting to me is the way changing Western attitudes and emerging Third-World power structures have transformed global missions. I would wager that 150 years ago white missionaries throughout the world behaved with similar disregard for local authority/autonomy. How far the rest of the world has come illustrates how shameful earlier opinions about an event like this would have been.
posted by jefficator at 9:21 AM on February 10, 2010


To road to Haitian jail is paved with good intentions.
posted by mpbx at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


The analogy to Roeder is actually nearly perfect...

Sure, sure. Just repeat that as your personal catechism. If you focus enough, ignoring the pesky distinctions and points of relief in the way of your analogical leveling, why, they'll eventually smooth right out, or, more importantly, if they don't, you won't even notice them!

I don't know if she's a "real" Christian or just pretending. It doesn't matter. She is a coyote. She is a human trafficker. She was going to sell those children.

Just like any adoption agency sells kids, right?

I expect that question might suddenly get you in the business of at least making some finer distinctions, a practice there's not enough of in this thread.
posted by namespan at 9:48 AM on February 10, 2010


Just like any adoption agency sells kids, right?

Legitimate adoption agencies are not headed by people with a long history of fraud and unethical business practices. Legitimate adoption agencies don't stock up on children by going to other countries and taking a hundred children - some with living parents! - in a day. Silsby's motives were financial, not humanitarian. Your perverse insistence that it's otherwise is only evidence that people will continue to excuse the most heinous crimes as long as there is a thick layer of "Christian charity" slapped on it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


Oh, and this:

I cannot tell you - I mean, I seriously cannot tell you - how pervasive is this kind of thing in missionary circles. Someone with little or no experience in community development in a foreign context gets a wild hair about doing something for the poor downtrodden,

Resonates. I've never participated in any kind of on-the-ground foreign effort, but I know a lot of people who have, both in religious and non-religious contexts. Most of them credible and well put-together operations. And I've noticed some of them actually warn participants not to adopt kids, some actually make it a rule of participation that you agree to not do so. I found this laughable when I first saw this in a guidebook when I was around 20 years old—seriously, you have to make a rule against adoption? People don't realize the gravity of that on their own? But they sometimes don't. There's this assumption that human impulsiveness tends towards vice, but it's not that simple. Wish I could find a cite, but there's a story floating around about a man who saw the twin towers burning on 9/11 and decided to try to swim the Hudson to get there and help out. People can do surprisingly stupid things under the influence of whatever makes us altruistic as well as under the influence of selfishness.
posted by namespan at 10:13 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


These people — all of them — fail so fucking miserably at life that they should be placed into padded rooms for their own protection.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:22 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


That PDF is one of the craziest things I've read in a long time. The idea that you could just drop by Port au Prince, gather up 100 kids, and cross back over an international border with them is batshit.

The very last page seals the deal though. She wanted to build a seaside resort where the kids were her unique selling proposition. "Come stay with us for two or three months, you can take a child home with you as a memento of your trip! Don't forget to eat at our cafe!"
posted by lowlife at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your perverse insistence that it's otherwise is only evidence that people will continue to excuse the most heinous crimes as long as there is a thick layer of "Christian charity" slapped on it.

What, exactly, have I excused Silsby of, other than being Scott Roeder or a pimp?

But I was right: you do have the ability to search out distinctions when you try! Now let's see if you can stretch that a little bit.
posted by namespan at 10:29 AM on February 10, 2010


Again, I wasn't comparing Silsby to Roeder, but people's reactions to each. These are not the types of crimes where where their intent matters. And in a related news, Texan missionary sentenced to jail in Mexico for running cross-border adoption scam that fattened her pockets at the expense of poor Mexican women.

I've still yet to see an argument as to why we should care what they subjectively believed while committing the crime of which they're accused.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2010


Oops. Gender trouble again. The Texan missionary is male. So his pockets were fattened. Of course, he insists he was helping.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:41 AM on February 10, 2010


Just like any adoption agency sells kids, right?

Ethical and reputable orphanages view adoption as a last resort for a child, especially international adoption. Adoption agencies should have their priorities cascading in the following order: rights of the kids, rights of the birth families, rights of the adoptive parents.

Unfortunately, with how adoption is funded and with the twisted "bring a child to Christ and the privileged first world no matter what the cost" mentality of a few Christian agencies, some agencies have lost sight of their true priorities. They put adoptive parents first, or kids first and adoptive parents second but have their own version of what is "best" for a child.

Adoption agencies don't "sell" kids. But do they ONLY benefit financially if there is a steady stream of adoptable kids and prospective parents? Yes. Have you ever heard of an agency try to work to put itself out of business by trying to make sure that adoptions are no longer needed? I haven't. This is enough of a conflict of interest to make it imperative that we are very carefully tracking what these agencies are doing, especially when they are representing the US in other countries.

Here's a gut check for anyone who says that what the ten missionaries were doing was in the best interest of the kids:

Instead of bringing the kids to the States, why not either bring their immediate family to the States as an intact family and fostering the whole family here? Or building an organization in Haiti to fight to keep birth families together, provide food and medical help? Or sponsoring a child so he/she can be fed and clothed while staying with his/her family?

If their gut is uncomfortable with either or both option, ask them why? If they really want to help these kids, why do they think taking them away from biological families is more helpful than helping the entire family? Or helping the kids while they are staying with their biological families?

It's because they want the kids. Not the adults. Or even the older kids.

There are kids in orphanages right now. Some are in a last resort situation. But some are not...they are in an orphanage because of solvable problems that the Western world chooses to not help solve. Because it's more complicated and messy than just, you know, taking the kids.

Just wanting to point out that I'm speaking as someone who knows adult adoptees (international and domestic), as well as someone who is currently going through the international adoption process. I don't view all adoption as bad. But I'm aware that there are some bad adoption agencies.

This quote from the director of an Ethiopian orphanage says it all:

Tewodros admits that adoption isn't always the best strategy, but like non-profits the world over, he is restricted by funding. The money is in adoption, not in keeping children in their country with their families.
posted by jeanmari at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Again, I wasn't comparing Silsby to Roeder, but people's reactions to each. These are not the types of crimes where where their intent matters. And in a related news, Texan missionary sentenced to jail in Mexico for running cross-border adoption scam that fattened her pockets at the expense of poor Mexican women.

I've still yet to see an argument as to why we should care what they subjectively believed while committing the crime of which they're accused.
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:39 AM on February 10 [+] [!]


I don't really want to argue this point in the thread, but again, I really think you do need to
make a distinction between Intent and Motive. No one is asking in either case, if the defendant's subjective beliefs influenced their crimes, only that the defendant's knew what the results of their actions would be.

As long as Silsby and Roeder committed their actions knowing the consequences of their actions to a strong certainty, they are guilty. It doesn't matter whether they thought their actions were good, or bad. (Silsby knew that putting the children on the bus and driving would result in removing them from the country; Roeder knew that pulling the trigger would result in the death of Tiller) The motives behind these actions are often irrelevant in american jurisprudence, except in some cases for raising a defense. You've effectively set up an argument to shoot down (We should/should not look at motives behind criminal actions) that is largely irrelevant in determining guilt.


When you advocate for crimes that require no intent, you're talking about strict liability crimes. But neither Roeder nor Silsby's crimes were intentionless. A "Strict Liability" version of the crimes would be something like finding these defendants guilty in the following circumstance: "A child hid in the trunk of Silsby's bus, and crossed the border without her knowledge that the child was present in the back", or "Roeder was a a shooting range, and Tiller was behind the target without Roeder's knowledge. Tiller was killed when Roeder shot at the target." Those are crimes that do not deal with intent.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:13 AM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should rephrase: considerations of motive are not "irrelevant"; they, for instance, provide strong evidence for the persons guilt. But they are not necessary for determining that a crime has been committed.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:16 AM on February 10, 2010


maybe i'm painting with a broad brush, but these folks sound like they're the sort of americans who were in favor of our government's treatment of foreigners arrested, even if they were arrested in the US, with respect to civil rights and such. why on earth do they think they should get any better treatment if they're arrested in a foreign nation?
posted by rmd1023 at 11:41 AM on February 10, 2010


Exceptionalism is a helluva drug.
posted by darkstar at 11:52 AM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really think you do need to make a distinction between Intent and Motive...As long as Silsby and Roeder committed their actions knowing the consequences of their actions to a strong certainty, they are guilty.

Habeas: You can agree with someone simply by clicking the little 'plus' sign; no need to throw in multiple identical posts saying next to nothing.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:56 AM on February 10, 2010


these folks sound like they're the sort of americans who were in favor of our government's treatment of foreigners arrested

Sure. Go for it. Why not? :|

In U.S. law, the importance of intent seems complicated. Kidnapping is considered a general-intent crime, which seems to mean you only need prove that these people knew they were breaking the law, not that they intended to sell children into slavery. I'm sure Haiti has its own legal vagaries...

My gut (and circumstantial and direct personal evidence) tells me there's something suspicious about this group's leader's claims and actions. However, to label her a slave trader still seems a bit premature (unless, of course, you know of evidence that we don't), especially for U.S. citizens who claim to believe in "innocent until proven guilty."
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on February 10, 2010


Kidnap fears spark -- "UNICEF warns lost kids may be kidnapped for adoption, sex abuse or labor."
posted by ericb at 12:12 PM on February 10, 2010


Question: I occasionally see Haiti referred to as a "non-Christian" nation (as in the LJ quote above). The statistics I saw show that the country is majority Catholic. Am I missing something?

it's not just the voudou - since I moved to Baptist/Fundamentalist Country, I've been informed on a regular basis that the veneration of saints in the Catholic Church, specifically the paintings, sculptures and iconography, is clear evidence of idolatry, which is "agin god."
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:47 PM on February 10, 2010


Just like any adoption agency sells kids, right?

These children have living parents who love them and want to keep them.

How the hell can anyone be so dense that they can't understand that???
posted by miyabo at 2:21 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to Reuters, a Haitian judge is going to release them.
posted by spec80 at 3:20 PM on February 10, 2010


Vis-à-vis the discussion above regarding intent:
"'One thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans,' the source said." *
posted by ericb at 3:40 PM on February 10, 2010


Habeas: You can agree with someone simply by clicking the little 'plus' sign; no need to throw in multiple identical posts saying next to nothing.

Or, you know, he can agree by posting his agreement. Don't be a dickbag.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:50 PM on February 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


The idiots will be released. It's a shame they're not keeping Silsby.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:17 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note to self:
In case of natural disaster, take no chances - shoot any Americans on sight.
posted by Catch at 2:28 AM on February 11, 2010


"One thing an investigating judge seeks in a criminal investigation is criminal intentions on the part of the people involved and there is nothing that shows that criminal intention on the part of the Americans," the source said.

Well, there's the importance of intent in Haitian law, I suppose. I'm not sure how the judge arrived at that decision, but there it is.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:39 AM on February 11, 2010


Haiti judge: 10 Americans should be released -- "Release would be conditional while child trafficking probe continues."
posted by ericb at 10:51 AM on February 11, 2010


CNN just reported that the judge will hold a hearing on the case on Monday.

Remember that the source of the rumor that they'd be released today is the group's attorney. Their previous attorney made similar claims that never panned out. So, the situation is still in limbo.
posted by ericb at 1:20 PM on February 11, 2010


Haiti judge: 10 Americans should be released -- "Release would be conditional while child trafficking probe continues."

"MSNBC's Miguel Almaguer, reporting from Haiti, says the judge quoted in the AP report denies saying that he recommends the missionaries be released." *
posted by ericb at 1:22 PM on February 11, 2010


This story just keeps getting better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Jorge Puello, the Dominican Republic lawyer retained by the Americans' families to represent the imprisoned missionaries, the same man who fired the missionaries' Haitian lawyer for trying to bribe Haitian officials, is now suspected of involvement in a human trafficking ring in El Salvador involving women and children. In addition, he might not even be a lawyer.

Despite Puello's claim that he will be working for free, the families in Idaho have paid him over $12,000 (supposedly for transporting the Americans once freed) and he's requesting quite a bit more. The Central Valley Baptist Church website maintains that they continue to have confidence in "the attorneys that represent our people", and they also suggest ways to donate to the legal fund.

Fascinating stuff. I must say that I couldn't have imagined any of this, and I'm waiting to see how this will all unfold. Needless to say, the Haitian judge is less than pleased (check out the NYTimes link, above), and one might surmise that the Americans won't be coming home as soon as initially predicted.
posted by math at 7:13 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curiouser and curiouser. Sibley and the CVBC appear to keep some exceptionally poor company.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 AM on February 12, 2010


A bit more information on the sleazy lawyer they had representing them. The company this group has kept makes me suspect strongly that their intentions were not good, not in the least.
The parents of a self-styled lawyer advising Americans jailed in Haiti said he's the same person wanted for child trafficking in El Salvador.
His parents are ratting him out. That's not a good sign.
a charge in Miami in 1999 for possessing fake documents, records show. His bond was later revoked and a warrant was issued for his arrest… His mother said her son has served federal prison time in the United States. Records show he was indicted for bank fraud by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia in 1998 and was released from prison in January 2002.
Not a good sign, nope.
While Torres Puello has been telling reporters during recent interviews that he is convert to Judaism and is president of the Sephardic Jewish Community in the Dominican Republic, several Jewish leaders say they have never heard of him.
But his momma says that he was a good boy growing up: “he never wore jeans.”
posted by five fresh fish at 7:20 AM on February 15, 2010


Here is a story posted by CBS news today about Christian World Adoption, an agency accused of recruiting children from healthy families in Ethiopia with lies to the biological parents (as well as payments to them). It was originally covered by CBS News Australia and is finally making it to the States. Sounds similar to the strategy Silsby was proposing to parents in Haiti not matching the materials she had created for her desired orphanage/adoption agency.
posted by jeanmari at 7:40 AM on February 16, 2010


Also, if you are a prospective or adoptive parent who wants to promote ethical adoption reform, please check out PEAR: Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform.
posted by jeanmari at 7:52 AM on February 16, 2010


Also? Ethica is another organization that fights for adoption ethics and reform.
posted by jeanmari at 8:02 AM on February 16, 2010


Cops hunt U.S. missionaries’ ex-legal adviser.
posted by ericb at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2010


Judge to free some U.S. missionaries -- "It is still unclear which of the 10 church members will be allowed to leave quake-ravaged Haiti."
posted by ericb at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2010


Looks like everyone but Silsby and Coulter at the moment.
posted by jeanmari at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2010


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