Stormy Daniels' attorney helps reunite family

Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, helped reunite a deported Guatemalan mother with her son, after a judge gave Avenatti temporary custody of the child. CNN's Sara Sidner reports.

Posted: Aug 16, 2018 2:44 PM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 3:10 PM

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 his 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: 812694

Reported Deaths: 15142
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139601904
Mobile721751321
Madison51923685
Shelby37240339
Baldwin37044538
Tuscaloosa34902599
Montgomery33919719
Lee23122240
Calhoun22125469
Morgan20620370
Etowah19739496
Marshall18238298
Houston17288405
St. Clair15897337
Cullman15297290
Limestone15178198
Elmore15038284
Lauderdale14125294
Talladega13692271
DeKalb12554258
Walker11069364
Blount10081174
Autauga9883146
Jackson9776177
Coffee9176188
Dale8856180
Colbert8781200
Tallapoosa7032195
Escambia6725127
Covington6672179
Chilton6580160
Russell624758
Franklin5927105
Chambers5558142
Marion4952126
Dallas4854199
Clarke472681
Pike4716105
Geneva4558126
Winston4461101
Lawrence4252117
Bibb421686
Barbour355374
Marengo333989
Monroe329962
Randolph324763
Butler323994
Pickens313581
Henry310565
Hale308787
Cherokee299457
Fayette290579
Washington250851
Cleburne245958
Crenshaw243375
Clay239767
Macon230662
Lamar215446
Conecuh185351
Coosa177738
Lowndes173161
Wilcox167038
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131138
Greene125544
Choctaw86627
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