DALLAS - American Airlines said Wednesday that it asked the Trump administration not to use their flights to carry migrant children who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities.
"We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it," American said in a statement. United, Southwest, Frontier and Alaska also criticized the policy and asked not to be involved in transporting separated children.
Facing growing opposition to his administration's recent policy of separating migrant families, President Donald Trump signed an order later in the day to keep families together at the nation's southern border.
Many airlines have contracts to provide travel services to the U.S. government. American said, however, that the government doesn't provide information about the passengers or their reason for travel.
But even with the public statements, a well-known attorney said he saw several unaccompanied boys getting on an American flight in McAllen on Wednesday afternoon. Attorney Michael Avenatti, made famous for representing Stormy Daniels, now represents 50 immigrant mothers separated from their children.
Avenatti tweeted a photo of the boys from the airport in McAllen before he boarded a flight to DFW International Airport. American responded, saying the government assured them the seven boys were actually being reunited with family members in the U.S.
Avenatti said the mothers he's representing are from Central America and are seeking political asylum.
"We're in the process of trying to locate a lot of these children first, and then I think it's going to be very complicated to reunite a lot of these mothers with their children and I think a lot of these families are going to be permanently destroyed, unfortunately,” Avenatti said in an interview inside DFW Airport with FOX4.
Avenatti tweeted a letter one of his clients wrote to her 6-year-old son, Lloyd, and shared the story of how they were separated.
"The officer assured her repeatedly that he was going to bring Lloyd right back to her. That he was only to be taken for a bath,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti said he's located Lloyd in Phoenix. That's where he was headed when FOX4 spoke with him Wednesday night.
"She hoped that he was close by even though they had been separated. She doesn't understand why he would've been sent to Phoenix. It makes no sense to her,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti said he has two clients, two mothers, who have already received deportation paperwork -- but they do not know where their children are or whether there is a plan to deport them together.
Passengers FOX4 spoke with at DFW Airport on Wednesday afternoon praised American Airlines for declining to take anymore detained children on their flights
But a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department criticized the airlines in strong terms, accusing them of no longer wanting to help the agency protect the traveling public and reunite unaccompanied illegal immigrant children with their families.
"Despite being provided facts on this issue, these airlines clearly do not understand our immigration laws," the spokesman, Tyler Houlton, said in a statement. He accused the airlines of "buckling to a false media narrative."
American and United said they do not know whether any migrant children separated from their parents have been placed on their flights.