Nightly News   |  February 03, 2010

What were American missionaries’ plans for Haitian kids?

The Haitian-American pastor who worked with the 10 Americans accused of child trafficking in Haiti says that group leader Laura Silsby planned to find and transport even more children. NBC's Michelle Kosinski reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Now we turn our focus back to Haiti and the group of Americans arrested after being accused of trying to leave that country illegally with almost three dozen children . All 10 of the accused have finally had their hearing before a judge. It's not clear what happens next, but tonight NBC 's Michelle Kosinski is at the main police station there in Port -au-Prince with more about their mission and how they went about it. Michelle , good evening.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI reporting: Good evening, Brian . This will be the fifth night in jail for these American missionaries. And now a judge may decide tomorrow, even if they say they were trying to save children , and even if they had permission from parents, whether they will be charged with trafficking in children . Along remote mountain trails and in the capital, the Americans came on a mission to find and gather children . Unidentified Man #1: We're hanging in there.

KOSINSKI: But this ill-fated trip that landed them in jail, after trying to take 33 undocumented children across the border, was only the beginning. Unidentified Man #2: Here is a group of children ...

KOSINSKI: According to the Haitian American pastor, who, after a chance meeting on a bus, became their guide and gatherer, group leader Laura Silsby planned to return to Haiti on February 13th to find more children in the same way, about 100 more. But not everyone embraced their plan. The school sent them away. One orphanage director said their little advertisement for their facility rubbed him the wrong way.

Ms. FLORENCE ANTOINE:

KOSINSKI: They showed it to Florence Antoine and her family, too, and then they gave the Americans their children . Eight-year-old Carl , seven-year-old Dalantina , eight-year-old Dewans . To them, it was a shot at a future. Today Haiti 's prime minister told NBC 's Kerry Sanders this is all a distraction, but the issue is serious.

Mr. MAX BELLERIVE (Haitian Prime Minister): You're talking to me as if there was no people trafficking all kinds of children , as if there's no people -- no people taking children to bring them having sex with adults.

KERRY SANDERS reporting: And you said...

Mr. BELLERIVE: All that.

SANDERS: ...that does happen here on a regular basis.

Mr. BELLERIVE: That exists. That exists.

KOSINSKI: But to Florence , even adoption to strangers was OK with her as long as she could contact them. Now she says she can't eat or sleep while the government is keeping the children from their parents. Their future even more uncertain than before. Brian , tonight the attorney for these Americans says they were victims, duped by locals into thinking they had all the documentation they needed.

WILLIAMS: Michelle Kosinski , part of our team in Port -au-Prince. Michelle , thanks.