Avenatti helps reunite child with deported mom

Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, helped reunite a deported Guatemalan mother with her son, after a judge gave Avenatti temporary custody of the child.

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 4:43 AM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 5:00 AM

Antony Ortiz walked into the courtroom in Houston wearing a light gray hoodie, khakis and black tennis shoes with red laces. He looked his age, but he didn't act it. He didn't smile or fidget. He sat up straight and waited patiently.

The 9-year-old was filled with hope that Tuesday would be the day he finally reunited with his mother. The two had been separated for 81 days since they arrived together at the US-Mexico border. Under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, Elsa Ortiz Enriquez, had been sent back to Guatemala without her son -- and she had been fighting to get him back ever since.

Meantime, Antony had been among more than 380 children who, as of last week, were in the custody of the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, and whose parents had been deported, data reported by the government show.

At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the judge called his case. By 9:15 a.m., Antony was wiping away tears.

Through big headphones filled with a court translator's voice, Antony learned that Immigration Judge Chris Brisack ruled that he could "voluntarily depart" the United States, a process that could take the government as long as 60 days to arrange. The prospect of having to wait two more months to see his mom rattled the boy and his attorneys.

But then, just hours later, a phone call brought unexpected news -- and Antony was boarding his first flight ever, en route to this mom.

'This is an outrage'

Unlike many children brought to court by the vanload, Antony had private attorneys: Michael Avenatti, perhaps best known for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels, who has alleged an affair with President Donald Trump, which he denies; and Ricardo de Anda, a civil rights attorney Avenatti hired to assist in the case.

Avenatti had gone to court Tuesday offering a quick solution: At his own expense, he'd been ready to escort Antony back to his mother the same day. But the government insisted on its own process, and the court set a timetable of no more than 60 days.

Antony cried at the prospect that he'd have to wait even longer to see his mother again. And Avenatti fumed.

"This is an outrage, and now we have to work through bureaucratic red tape in order to ensure this boy is released at some point, and it could take upwards of 45 to 60 days. It makes no sense," Avenatti said. "I am offering to take him today, right now."

Avenatti and de Anda broke the news to Antony's mom by phone. She said she'd been nervous, waiting to hear what happened. They told her it might be another 60 days until she could see her son again. She began to cry.

"I am crying because I cannot do anything. I am not there," Ortiz Enriquez said in Spanish. "I thought about going back and finding him, but they told me that would complicate things."

HHS delivers unexpected news

Then, Avenatti's phone rang. It was an HHS official.

She'd heard about the lawyer's offer to temporarily take custody of the child and return him to his mom. She didn't understand why the government attorney or the court hadn't just agreed to it, especially since the Justice Department has faced pressure from a federal judge who ruled the government must reunite as quickly as possible families separated under the zero tolerance rule.

Several conversations later -- and eight hours after the court hearing -- HHS employees escorted the 9-year-old to George Bush Intercontinental Airport and handed him over to his lawyers. Antony boarded a plane with de Anda and Avenatti, whose sudden foray into the immigration debate raised eyebrows after he announced he was seriously considering running for President.

But Avenatti, who said he's taken on dozens of similar cases, pushed back on critics who claim his immigration casework is all about the news coverage.

"That is ludicrous. This isn't a publicity stunt. I've been quietly representing dozens of families for weeks now, traveling around the country doing good work," he said. "My record speaks for itself."

'It's a miracle God's given me'

Three hours later, Antony landed in Guatemala City.

His mother saw him and fell to her knees. She grabbed him, her tears flowing.

The boy used both his hands to wipe her face. He told her not to cry.

But she wept all the more. And again, he wiped her tears.

"I started crying with joy, and he kept telling me not to cry because if there is one thing he does not like is seeing me cry," Ortiz Enriquez told CNN.

Her son was tired and shy, surrounded by strangers. His mother was relieved and thankful.

"It's such unexpected news. It's a miracle God's given me," she said. "I never thought I was going to be surprised. It was supposed to just (be) a day in court."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 814025

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1140561910
Mobile722691323
Madison52017686
Shelby37304341
Baldwin37087540
Tuscaloosa34966599
Montgomery33971725
Lee23149240
Calhoun22159470
Morgan20659372
Etowah19764496
Marshall18254300
Houston17310405
St. Clair15921337
Cullman15325290
Limestone15222198
Elmore15086284
Lauderdale14157294
Talladega13723272
DeKalb12574259
Walker11089366
Blount10102174
Autauga9901146
Jackson9793180
Coffee9182189
Dale8864181
Colbert8791200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6743127
Covington6685179
Chilton6592160
Russell626158
Franklin5935105
Chambers5560142
Marion4958126
Dallas4889199
Clarke473482
Pike4720105
Geneva4564126
Winston4476101
Lawrence4266117
Bibb421786
Barbour355675
Marengo334089
Monroe330462
Randolph327663
Butler324894
Pickens313982
Henry311265
Hale309487
Cherokee300057
Fayette290979
Washington251151
Cleburne247058
Crenshaw243775
Clay240767
Macon230762
Lamar217846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178838
Lowndes174161
Wilcox167738
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125844
Choctaw87027
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 51°
Columbus
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 48°
Oxford
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 46°
Starkville
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 48°
Fall like weather has dominated for the last few days, but a slight warming trend will eventually lead to increased rain chances, briefly, by mid-week.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather