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But in Haiti, a long tradition of foreign military intervention coupled with the earthquake that destroyed much of the capital and plunged it even deeper into poverty have made this issue even more emotionally charged. Of 20 Haitian parents interviewed in a tent camp by the AP on Sunday, only one said she would not give up her children to give them a chance at a better life.

“Some parents I know have already given their children to foreigners,” said Adonis Helman, 44. “I’ve been thinking how I will choose which one I may give.”

“My parents died in the earthquake. My husband has gone. Giving up one of my kids would at least give them a chance,” said Saintanne Petit-Frere, 40, a mother of six. “My only fear is that they would forget me, but that wouldn’t affect my decision.”

Haiti’s overwhelmed government has halted all adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to being seized and sold. Sex trafficking has been rampant in Haiti. Prime Minister Max Bellerive’s personal authorization now is required for the departure of any child.

“For UNICEF, what is important is that for children separated from their parents, we do everything possible to have their families traced and to reunite them,” said Kent Page, a spokesman for the United Nations group in Haiti. “They have to be protected from traffickers or people who wish to exploit these children.”

The arrested Americans include members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. The churches are part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is America’s largest Protestant denomination and has extensive humanitarian programs worldwide, but they decided to mount their own “rescue mission” following the earthquake.

Associated Press writers Carolina Correa in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Jessie Bonner and Keith Ridler in Idaho; and Rachel Zoll in New York contributed to this story.