The Baptist missionaries who were arrested for driving out of Haiti with 33 children last month were on the verge of being released when their legal representative, one Jorge Puello, was accused of being a human trafficker.
Puello says he’s a victim of mistaken identity, but police in El Salvador say he’s actually Jorge Torres Orellana, wanted in connection with a sex trafficking ring that lured girls with promises of modeling contracts, then put them to work as prostitutes. He became involved with the Americans’ case after calling one of their churches in Idaho, then fired their original lawyer, Edwin Coq, and played a high-profile role advocating for them. There is no indication that the missionaries knew him, or had any connection to him, before their arrest last month: they thought he was just a good Samaritan. The accusations against Puello could affect their hopes of imminent release.
This sounds about right: I can believe this bunch were naive enough to go along with anyone who showed up to help them, particularly since they’ve been reduced from their previous position of privileged white American do-gooders to imprisoned fearful strangers in a strange land, vilified by everyone on all sides of the Caribbean.
I’m sorry, but these idiots deserve whatever they get. I mean, what chutzpah! What arrogance, to march into an all-but destroyed country and think they can just snap up kids because their intentions were good. I believe their ultimate goal was to do good—but nothing about these people arouses my sympathy or admiration. As Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post put it:
No parent or guardian should ever have to surrender a child under duress. I can’t imagine more duress than trying to provide for a family in the days after a disaster of the magnitude of the Haiti earthquake. It was a moment of overwhelming need and despair — precisely the wrong moment to expect a parent or guardian to make a permanent, life-changing decision. True charity would have been to help those families care for their children — not to put them in a bus and drive them away.
Even the world’s most avid international adopter, Angelina Jolie, is urging people not to adopt from Haiti, saying that now isn’t the right time to do so. (By the way, I wonder if most people—those who gossip and accuse Jolie of adopting just to make headlines—are aware she is an official goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a position once held by the beloved and respected Audrey Hepburn).
But I digress. Back to my rant on the real villains here, the good Christian soldiers who abducted 33 Haitian children. Do these naifs really know nothing about human trafficking, and why what they did is so obnoxious and dangerous? Had they gotten away with their human booty, one effect of their actions would have been to send an encouraging message to traffickers wanting to carry off Haitian kids into lives of servitude—which may be happening anyhow. According to Cara Kennedy of Free the Slaves, roughly ten percent of Haiti’s children were in domestic slavery before the earthquake, and “there’s a risk they’ll be sent back into slavery now. Many children are on their own amid the rubble, vulnerable to traffickers.”
Human trafficking runs rampant in the world today. It is a disgusting, horrific crime against humanity, as vile as slavery (which is what it is) and the Holocaust. Go to the website of Free the Slaves. See the film Human Trafficking. Read up on child victims. It behooves all of us to pay attention.
Members of Free the Slaves are in Haiti working to protect the rights of children in the aftermath of the earthquake. “At so many levels, there are holes in the system,” they say. “There are reports of trafficking across the border, and children missing from camps and centers charged with their protection.”
Into this situation waltzed these would-be saviors, snatching kids left and right, piling them into a bus, and driving to the Dominican Republic next door. Some of the kids weren’t even orphans. S. Epatha NickersonThe group’s leader, Laura Silsby, was apparently shocked to be charged with child abduction and criminal conspiracy. It turns out that Silsby’s background is questionable: she’s been the target of eight lawsuits and fourteen claims for unpaid wages(!) relating to an Internet business she founded in 1999. The house in Boise where her nonprofit, New Life Children’s Refuge, is based, was foreclosed on in December.
And now the plot thickens with accusations that the group’s legal rep might be a human trafficker. “I plan to get to the bottom of this right away,” Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, the judge on the case, told The New York Times. I am working as fast as I can, but I must first understand Mr. Puello.”