The church group, most of them from Idaho, allegedly lacked the proper documents when they were arrested on Friday night in a bus along with children from 2 months to 12 years old who had survived the catastrophic earthquake.
The group says they were setting up an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.
"In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing," the group's spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, told The Associated Press at the judicial police headquarters in the capital, where the Americans were being held pending a hearing before a judge today.
The Baptists' ‘Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission' was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatised children.
Their plan was to scoop up 100 children and take them by bus to a 45-room hotel at Cabarete, a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, that they were converting into an orphanage, Silsby told the AP.
Whether they realised it or not, these Americans the first known to be taken into custody since the January 12 quake put themselves in the middle of a firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking.