STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 4:58 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."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38569

Reported Deaths: 1511
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12456787
Ramsey4911228
Dakota238291
Stearns237119
Anoka2241109
Nobles16696
Olmsted112915
Washington111440
Mower9522
Rice8447
Scott7344
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4792
Wright4755
Todd4012
Carver3811
Sherburne3175
Lyon3162
Freeborn2920
Watonwan2340
Steele2311
Benton2173
St. Louis18015
Martin1695
Nicollet16912
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1318
Winona12515
Crow Wing10612
Pine1050
Le Sueur1031
Chisago1001
Otter Tail951
McLeod920
Carlton870
Dodge870
Polk822
Chippewa791
Unassigned7837
Isanti730
Waseca680
Douglas650
Itasca6412
Murray640
Meeker611
Morrison591
Becker560
Faribault560
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pipestone522
Pennington510
Renville352
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Brown312
Rock310
Beltrami300
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston260
Swift221
Wilkin213
Norman200
Redwood180
Cass162
Roseau160
Aitkin150
Big Stone150
Koochiching151
Wadena150
Kanabec141
Grant120
Marshall120
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen91
Clearwater80
Hubbard70
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31670

Reported Deaths: 722
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6638179
Woodbury325244
Black Hawk230158
Buena Vista171411
Johnson13148
Linn129482
Dallas128029
Marshall104919
Scott81510
Story7793
Pottawattamie73612
Wapello70830
Dubuque70222
Crawford6772
Muscatine64344
Sioux4770
Tama46529
Wright3861
Louisa36213
Jasper32517
Plymouth3225
Warren2901
Dickinson2663
Washington2439
Webster2292
Hamilton1891
Cerro Gordo1821
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1322
Allamakee1314
Mahaska11617
Shelby1140
Clinton1121
Poweshiek1068
Carroll991
Pocahontas971
Bremer946
Des Moines922
Franklin900
Emmet880
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Hardin770
Monona770
Cherokee751
Floyd732
Marion700
Benton691
Guthrie664
Jefferson640
Sac640
Osceola620
Jones610
Butler572
Buchanan551
Humboldt551
Hancock540
Harrison540
Lee542
Calhoun532
Iowa530
Delaware511
Fayette510
Monroe516
Madison482
Clayton443
Lyon440
Davis411
Palo Alto410
Mitchell390
Winneshiek390
Grundy380
Mills370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Lucas314
Greene300
Chickasaw290
Union290
Winnebago290
Ida240
Cass230
Van Buren220
Appanoose213
Keokuk211
Page210
Worth200
Unassigned170
Adair160
Audubon161
Ringgold160
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Rochester
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 88°
Mason City
Few Clouds
87° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 91°
Albert Lea
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 89°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
88° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 94°
Charles City
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 90°
Some relief in sight, after more storms
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Staying safe in the heat

Image

Restaurant decides to go back to take-out amid surge in cases

Image

Shop Local Safely

Image

Expanded Team of Community Outreach

Image

Protecting Residents and Staff

Image

Dave's Noon Forecast 7/7

Image

Rochester businesses close out of precaution

Image

How did businesses do on the 4th of July with tourism

Image

Stewartville's Will Tschetter commits to Michigan

Image

Covid-19 concerns, Rochester Boys and Girls Club temporarily closes

Community Events