CBS News has obtained cellphone video from inside the Cayuga Centers in New York showing children huddled in what look like classrooms – including one crying girl who couldn’t talk to her mother. It’s the first unfiltered look inside a facility for separated immigrant children.

The government will not let news cameras inside the shelters and instead releases images they want us to see. These videos were provided to CBS News by attorney Michael Avenatti, a frequent critic of the Trump administration, and were apparently shot by an employee who was troubled by family separations and recently quit, reports CBS News’ Vladimir Duthiers.

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When we first see Leo, he is all smiles, but that smile disappears when he’s asked if he’s sad about being away from his mother. Avenatti, who represents Leo’s mother Lourdes, said the two were separated 48 hours after arriving at the Texas border on May 10.

“She had no idea where he was for the better part of three weeks and she was distraught over it,” Avenatti said. “She’s been deported back to Guatemala.”

Leo was sent to the Cayuga Centers in New York. He is one of reportedly 243 separated children there, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cayuga cares for the children during the day. At night, they go home to foster families.

In one video, a young girl named Jessica said she arrived at the U.S. with her 10-year-old brother. She was crying because she wanted to speak with her mother.Employees are heard complaining there were not enough phones for the children to talk to their parents.

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There’s only seven for 65 case managers… seven phones to make international calls,” one employee said.


Avenatti said the former employee wanted the video released because she was very bothered by the influx of children into the center.

“In my view, the most important thing above all else is these children need to be reunited with their parents and it needs to happen now,” Avenatti said of why he’s getting involved now. He is also the attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump and was paid $130,000 by his personal attorney to keep quiet about it.

“Some would say perhaps, you’ve got a bone to pick with President Trump and this is just another way for you to be sort of a thorn in his side. How do you respond to that?” Duthiers asked Avenatti, who replied, “No.”

“I have a problem with people that use children for pawns. Whether that be here in New York or California or Texas or anywhere else in this country,” Avenatti said.

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The Cayuga Centers and the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to CBS News’ request for comment. Avenatti said he represents more than 60 families who have been separated from more than 70 children. He said about 80 percent of his clients have had no contact with their children or even know where they are.