EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — Michael Avenatti, the lawyer best known for representing the porn actress Stormy Daniels, said Wednesday he is working to reunite two Honduran girls in New York with the parents they were separated from at the U.S. border.
Avenatti said he and fellow attorney Ricardo De Anda are trying to connect the girls with their father, who is out of immigration detention but isn't allowed to leave Texas. Their mother is still in federal custody.
Avenatti held a news conference outside a foster care center in Harlem that has been looking after the girls. He said it took two tries plus a series of tweets before the Cayuga Centers facility agreed to let them see the girls, aged 9 and 5.
Avenatti said when they first showed up for a pre-arranged visit, he was asked to wait for an hour. Then, a police officer appeared and escorted them out.
After Avenatti tweeted a complaint about not being allowed in, he said he got a call from the center assuring him he could see the youngsters.
The lawyers met with Cecia and Serli Santos around 3 p.m.
"It's one of the most heartbreaking interviews that I've ever had. The girls are so beautiful, so tender. It took everything for me not to cry," De Anda said.
A lawyer for the Cayuga Centers declined to comment.
Avenatti wants U.S. immigration officials to allow the girls' father, Hector Santos, to be allowed to travel to New York from Texas, where he is wearing a monitoring device. He made it to the United States by seeking asylum with the girls' older sister.
The girls and their mother were detained at the border in June. Santos had come to the U.S. earlier in the year.
"It's easier for me to go visit a client on death row in any state in the country than it is for me to go into a center like this and check on two little girls that were stripped from their parents," Avenatti said.