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Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard were duped and recruited by a former Army Vet. working for DeSantis.
Migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard were duped and recruited by a former Army Vet. working for DeSantis. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images.

Who is Perla Huerta, the U.S. army vet behind DeSantis’ migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard

A New York Times report says she is behind the recruitment of migrants for DeSantis’ migrant transportation plan.

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been on the receiving end of much controversy and media attention recently for his actions regarding migrants. Last month, the governor chartered a plane carrying over 50 — mostly Venezuelan — migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Legal challenges have come as a result. 

The transportation of migrants to Democratic city hubs is a part of a program that was highlighted over three months ago in the year’s new state budget. In what DeSantis called the highlight of the budget, titled the ‘Freedom First Budget,’ it sets aside over $12 million for the transportation of unauthorized migrants out of Florida. 

The program being funded by taxpayer money, saw a much different reality than what was expressed in the budget. What was supposed to be the transportation of migrants out of Florida, turned out to be the rounding up of Venezuelan migrants on the streets of San Antonio and duped into getting on a plane headed to Massachusetts with no warning. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been the leader of the migrant transportation effort, as he is responsible for the transportation of over 10,000 migrants from Texas to Democratic sanctuaries like Chicago, New York, and D.C. It is all part of the GOP’s campaign against Democrats and the Biden Administration over not clamping down on immigration along the Southern U.S. border. 

However, even Abbott was unaware of DeSantis’ plan. The Florida Governor’s use of the state’s money would be in violation of state law in relation to the allocation of funds as well as the fact that the airline used to charter the plane has political ties with DeSantis. 

However, according to a New York Times investigative report, DeSantis did not act alone.

It was revealed that the governor was helped with the recruitment of Venenzuelan migrants by a woman now revealed according to military records to be Perla Huerta, a U.S. Army veteran recently discharged this past August who served for more than two decades. This includes several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of her career. She was a combat medic and a counterintelligence agent.

According to investigators, Huerta was sent to Texas from Tampa by DeSantis for the purpose of rounding up and recruiting migrants to get on the plane. Up until the release of the New York Times report on Oct. 2, not much about Huerta was known. 

Migrants told the Times that she only referred to herself as ‘Perla’ and nothing else, and went on to solicit them to join the flight to the east. Her identity was released when a person briefed on the San Antonio Sheriff’s Office investigation into the flights told the Times about it. 

Huerta’s identity was also confirmed by a migrant who was helping Huerta in the recruitment of migrants and another migrant in San Antonio that Huerta failed to convince also confirmed her identity with a photograph. According to Rachel Self, a lawyer representing the migrants, she said that many of the migrants were able to capture photographs of Huerta during the recruitment process. Lawyers worked with them and were able to put together photos belonging to her social media accounts. 

The Times reached out to Huerta by phone and email at her home in Tampa, but got no response. The migrant who worked with her to help recruit other migrants spoke to the Times about Huerta under the condition that he remain unnamed. According to him, he met Huerta on Sept. 10 outside the Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio.

Huerta asked him to help her recruit other migrants like himself from Venezuela. However, he said he felt betrayed because Huerta at no point brought up the fact that she is working on behalf of the Florida government. 

“I was also lied to,” he said. “If I had known, I would not have gotten involved.” 

All he was told, he said, was that “she wanted to help people head up north.” 

Florida state records reveal that airline charter company, Vertol Systems, received a payment of over $615,000 on Sept. 8 and $950,000 less than two weeks later. The first payment was for “project 1” and the second payment for “projects two and three,” the payments show. State officials have spoken about the initial flights and have not revealed any plans for later flights. 

Migrants say Huerta approached them about a free flight to Massachusetts. She along with the other recruiters said that jobs, shelter, and food would be awaiting along with help from people who were supposedly going to receive them once they got there. 

The migrants were given a red folder with a map of the United States, with an arrow showing the way from Texas to Massachusetts. Additionally, there was a second map in the shape of Martha’s Vineyard that had a dot for the airport and one for the community services center. There was a brochure that is believed to be fraudulent titled “Refugee Migrant Benefits,” in English and Spanish. The front of the brochure read “Massachusetts Welcomes You,” and with a state flag that was not current. On the back were names and numbers of a synagogue and a nonprofit on

Martha’s Vineyard. The pamphlet also promised over eight months of cash assistance and other promises of help. 

“We were tricked in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico — and then in the United States,” said Carlos Guanaguanay, 25, a migrant who was approached by Huerta while at a supermarket near a shelter where he had been staying in San Antonio. 

As the ongoing issue has no signs of ending soon, Democratic cities like Philadelphia, and others have discussed possible preparations for if and when more migrants are sent to these cities. D.C. already called a state of emergency over the influx of migrants sent from Texas. New York has received thousands, and more can be on the way.

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