A group of 80 Haitian orphans waiting to be adopted landed Friday at Miami International Airport, where they where handed over by the authorities to their American adoptive parents.
The plane carrying the youngsters from earthquake-stricken Haiti came in just before 1 a.m. Friday.
Customs officers and airport personnel, as well as US Border Patrol agents, carried the little ones in their arms to the place their adoptive families were waiting for them.
The 80 Haitian children, who came from God’s Littlest Angels orphanage in Port-au-Prince, were accompanied on the flight by the centre’s director, Dixie Bickel, who was visibly moved.
"Thanks (to the US and the adoptive parents) for taking the kids out of there," she told reporters between sobs.
She said that some of the children "are sick from the dust they have inhaled" since Jan 12, when a magnitude-7.0 temblor struck the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Bickel said that the group of orphans was able to enter the country thanks to humanitarian visas granted by the US, though there are still, she said, two more visas to come.
The adoption process for these orphans was almost concluded, in some cases after several years of legal procedures, when the devastating earthquake struck.
Fifty-eight of the orphans entered the US through a programme of Bethany Christian Services, the biggest adoption organisation in the US.
At the airport, Kevin Downes, who was carrying his 21-month-old adoptive son Benicio in his arms, said he was exhausted from the wait but happy to have the little boy with them at last.
Downes, who lives with his wife in Fresno, California, said that the adoption of Benicio and all the orphans was a dream come true of the families involved.
Jennifer Ebenhack and her husband, a missionary couple living in the northern Haitian city of Cap-Haitien, adopted three children from God’s Littlest Angels.
Bickel stressed that the situation on the island in the aftermath of the quake is "critical" and that the population urgently needs water, provisions and donations.
Unicef said that even before the quake there were some 380,000 kids in orphanages and shelters in Haiti.
For its part, the Catholic archdiocese of Miami announced a program for bringing orphaned children to the US through a programme similar to "Operation Pedro Pan", which enabled 14,048 kids to leave communist-ruled Cuba in the 1960s.