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 5:55 AM
Updated: Aug 16, 2018 6:00 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."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 614946

Reported Deaths: 9807
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion849231342
Lake45784693
Allen33103560
Hamilton29752316
St. Joseph27572383
Elkhart24496346
Vanderburgh19679255
Tippecanoe18150144
Johnson15234296
Porter14970172
Hendricks14550253
Madison11071223
Clark10852145
Vigo10819185
Monroe9496115
Delaware9193136
LaPorte9173164
Howard8325148
Kosciusko811485
Warrick683399
Hancock6783106
Bartholomew6659100
Floyd6522113
Wayne6194164
Grant6050118
Dubois559081
Boone557968
Morgan551996
Henry512365
Marshall507884
Dearborn488745
Cass487864
Noble476159
Jackson428747
Shelby423381
Lawrence395180
Clinton375845
Gibson375560
Harrison354046
DeKalb351365
Montgomery349754
Knox337839
Miami325244
Steuben315846
Whitley313126
Wabash306951
Adams303636
Ripley301646
Putnam299152
Huntington295760
Jasper293035
White275943
Daviess271776
Jefferson267738
Decatur249983
Fayette249949
Greene242763
Posey241828
Wells237551
LaGrange230363
Scott227939
Clay225032
Randolph215848
Jennings200937
Spencer193622
Sullivan193633
Washington189023
Fountain185227
Starke177044
Jay168723
Owen168338
Fulton165430
Orange161035
Carroll160616
Rush156418
Perry156129
Vermillion150034
Franklin149933
Tipton134433
Parke13098
Pike118826
Blackford112023
Pulaski97937
Newton92621
Brown88835
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin75013
Warren6867
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4967
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 872918

Reported Deaths: 10856
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102616707
Cuyahoga868931154
Hamilton65148455
Montgomery43662420
Summit35411766
Lucas31794634
Butler31451232
Stark26247445
Warren19939144
Lorain19378229
Mahoning17561339
Lake16350161
Clermont16235113
Delaware1463881
Licking13453142
Fairfield1301782
Trumbull12980317
Greene12226144
Medina11798169
Clark11094266
Wood10507158
Allen10031128
Portage9514111
Richland9275134
Miami927273
Marion7512113
Tuscarawas7455186
Columbiana7433124
Pickaway735250
Muskingum714042
Wayne7140172
Erie6253130
Ross5589100
Hancock556292
Scioto545365
Geauga518955
Darke474395
Lawrence464658
Union459130
Ashtabula457973
Sandusky440462
Huron435541
Mercer435590
Seneca435366
Auglaize425166
Belmont423948
Jefferson423969
Shelby422923
Washington396340
Athens38619
Putnam379276
Madison359930
Knox358423
Ashland349638
Fulton341744
Defiance336188
Crawford327274
Preble323637
Brown318821
Logan314835
Ottawa297443
Clinton293944
Highland282219
Williams282267
Jackson266145
Guernsey259326
Champaign254628
Fayette241030
Morrow23594
Perry235518
Holmes227274
Henry222954
Hardin217033
Coshocton208023
Van Wert204445
Gallia200126
Wyandot198151
Pike180918
Adams179815
Hocking174024
Carroll158216
Paulding145521
Noble121040
Meigs110324
Monroe103433
Harrison89821
Morgan84531
Vinton71714
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 14°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
21° wxIcon
Hi: 24° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 13°
Huntington
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 26° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 16°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
24° wxIcon
Hi: 27° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 14°
Lima
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 23°
Feels Like: 16°
More Clouds than Sun Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events