Immigration Attorneys Call Michael Avenatti’s Activism ‘Fantastically Irresponsible’

"Many advocacy groups want to misuse the current situation to advocate for other policy reforms," Michael Avenatti told Observer in response.

Michael Avenatti's response to the immigration debate has drawn criticism.
Michael Avenatti has embraced a controversial immigration policy. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

Michael Avenatti’s entrance into the immigration crisis is worrying many activists and lawyers.

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After traveling last week to Phoenix, Ariz. to meet with immigrant children separated from their parents, Stormy Daniels’ attorney tweeted out his support for a “single staging area” to reunite families. The policy initiative, however, has become controversial amid the Trump administration’s embrace of family detention centers.

“It accepts detention as the default,” immigration attorney R. Andrew Free told Observer. “It is fantastically irresponsible.”

“What he’s talking about is family detention on steroids,” echoed immigration lawyer Matt Archambeault. “Jailing a child with their mom or dad is still jailing a child. I’ve seen really adverse psychological effects on the parents and the child.”

While speaking on the phone to Observer, Avenatti asked which “supposed experts” were making these criticisms before explaining his rationale for a single staging area.

“These individuals are already in custody,” explained Avenatti. “The president could decide tomorrow to move them all to a central location, and there’s very little anyone could do about it. The idea that this single staging area somehow advances what he’s trying to do or otherwise is absurd. What’s the alternative? Deport the parents and leave the kids behind?”

Avenatti called the construction and execution of a single staging area “very straightforward” and “not difficult at all.”

“You take all the parents with missing children and all the children with missing parents, and you take them to a central location and you allow the parents to be reunited with their kids. We’re talking about 4,000 people,” explained Avenatti. “You can organize them by alphabetical order by child… And allow parents to come over and see if they can find their kid. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to reunite 90 percent to 95 percent of the children with their parents.”

“Many advocacy groups want to misuse the current situation to advocate for other policy reforms,” added the attorney. “That is a critical mistake, and it basically amounts to using parents and children as pawns just like the president has attempted to do.”

Although Avenatti conceded that a 90 to 95 percent success rate was really just his own “common sense,” the three immigration attorneys we spoke to did not share his enthusiasm.

“I don’t know why he thinks we need a single staging area,” lamented Archambeault. “I don’t even understand what the concept is. It seems like he wants everyone blocked to one area and penned off by age or something so the parents can walk through and call their kid’s name.”

Archambeault also criticized Avenatti’s decision to tweet out the full names and Alien Registration Numbers of his younger clients who were separated from their parents.

“If she is running from violence, people could track her case… Or they could find out where she is detained via the ICE detainee locator,” explained Archambeault. “People should take the time to learn first what the issues actually are and what are the downsides to easy hashtag policy.”

Immigration Attorneys Call Michael Avenatti’s Activism ‘Fantastically Irresponsible’