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Hello Perla! Former Army Spy Lied To Migrants For 'Operation Own The Libs'
All that's missing is the pay stub from DeSantis.
The New York Times has solved one of the remaining mysteries about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's plot to fly migrants from Texas to Massachusetts and dump them on Martha's Vineyard. The Times yesterday identified the woman who recruited migrants in Texas for the scheme with false promises of jobs and housing. She had previously only been identified as "Perla" by the migrants, but now we know she's a former "combat medic and counterintelligence agent" named Perla Huerta who lives in Tampa, Florida. Military records show that she was just discharged from the Army after two decades of service, during which she'd been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan several times.
So hooray, now DeSantis can crow that he was helping out a brave veteran by giving her a clandestine assignment against America's enemies: legal migrants and people in blue states who consider them human beings instead of campaign props, those saps.
The Times story doesn't go into a lot of detail about how Huerta got involved in DeSantis's effort to prove he could fill Donald Trump's cruelty shoes in a future presidential run; the DeSantis administration has refused to release information about how exactly the scheme was conceived and put in motion. But there are new details about how it played out, both in Texas and in Massachusetts, including the fact that Huerta even deceived a Venezuelan migrant into helping her recruit asylum-seekers in San Antonio. That migrant identified Huerta from a photo, as did another migrant "whom Ms. Huerta had unsuccessfully sought to sign up." In addition,
Several of the migrants on Martha’s Vineyard photographed her during the recruitment process in San Antonio, according to Rachel Self, a lawyer representing the migrants. Lawyers working with them were able to match those photos with others online and in social media belonging to a woman named Perla Huerta.
The man who had worked with Huerta said he met her outside San Antonio's Migrant Resource Center on September 10, and that she lied to him, too:
She asked him to help her recruit other migrants like him from Venezuela. But he said he felt betrayed, because she never mentioned 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.”
So far, no documents have turned up to explain how DeSantis paid Huerta, or who exactly in state government was involved in the scheme. Open records law? Yeah, Florida has one, but it'll take lawsuits to pry loose the details. Florida records do detail how the charter company Vertol Systems was paid more than $1.5 million for the flights. Vertol is a big mover and shaker in Florida Republican circles, what a coincidence!
The money came from a $12 million fund the Florida Legislature set up to "facilitate the transport of unauthorized aliens from this state.” Naturally, since this was a Ron DeSantis joint, the migrants were not in Florida, and were also not unauthorized, either; they'd turned themselves in to the Border Patrol, then been freed on humanitarian parole and given dates to check in with immigration offices while they pursued claims for political asylum.
The story also notes that DeSantis's Martha's Vineyard scheme
appeared to have been far less organized than the more sweeping program created by Mr. Abbott in Texas that already had bused more than 11,000 migrants from the state to three northern, Democratic-run cities — Washington, New York and Chicago.
But hey, it got lots of attention, including a criminal investigation in Texas and a class action lawsuit filed by three of the migrants who were lied to and pressured to sign liability waivers they couldn't read.
We also get further information on the flights themselves, and how Perla lied to the migrants, telling them they'd get a free flight to Massachusetts, where people would help them get jobs and take care of them. Many of the migrants thought they would be going to New York or to Boston, not to a tiny resort island in the off season. One of the migrants, Carlos Guanaguanay, said Perla approached him in a supermarket and offered to "help" him. He told her "We can work at anything,” and “We are here for our families.”
Now, however, he says, "We were tricked in Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico — and then in the United States." At least we can hope the folks in Massachusetts have helped improve his impression of Americans a bit.
The story also notes that the migrants were given a genuine disinformation kit to entice them; it's not clear whether it was produced by Huerta, using counterintelligence skills she learned while in the Army, or by others on the DeSantis team, using the bargain-counterintelligence skills they've learned as professional trolls.
The migrants each received a red folder containing a map of the United States, with an arrow stretching from Texas to Massachusetts. Another map in the shape of Martha’s Vineyard had a dot for the airport and one for the community services center.
Also in the folder was a brochure, apparently fake, titled “Refugee Migrant Benefits,” in English and Spanish. The cover proclaimed, “Massachusetts Welcomes You,” and featured a state flag that was not current. Listed on the back were the names and numbers of a church, a synagogue and a nonprofit on Martha’s Vineyard.
Also included in the pamphlet were a list of services that are available to help refugees arriving in the US — benefits the migrants aren't eligible for because they're only for folks who are part of the federal refugee resettlement program, not for folks seeking asylum. The pamphlet said the migrants could get benefits like "up to eight months of cash assistance” for "income-eligible" refugees, which, again, the Venezuelan migrants are not.
When the two planes landed on Martha's Vineyard, the migrants were met by vans that dropped them off at a community center that hadn't been expecting anyone at all. They were told to go knock on the door, but the woman who answered didn't speak Spanish and had to call another employee who did.
Also, something to keep in mind when some troll insists the islanders were eager to get rid of the migrants: The migrants themselves sure as hell didn't want to be on an island.
“When they opened up their phones and put on Google Maps to see where they were and found out that they were surrounded entirely by water — that was terrifying,” said State Representative Dylan Fernandes of Massachusetts, a Democrat, who met some of the migrants. Some tried, in vain, to find a bridge.
Now that "Perla" has been positively identified, one of the nonprofits helping the migrants in their federal class action lawsuit against DeSantis and other Florida officials plans to amend the lawsuit to include Huerta as well. in a statement, Lawyers for Civil Rights noted that the suit had already listed her as "Doe Defendant #1," and that she'll now be formally served with the revised complaint naming her. The statement added,
The fact that 'Perla' is apparently a former military operative and spy aligns with the allegations in the complaint – which describe a highly orchestrated plan based on secrecy, deceit, and misrepresentation.
Several other "Doe Defendants" are also included in the suit, including an unknown accomplice of "Perla" who helped recruit migrants. Assuming that turns out to be the Venezuelan migrant who says Huerta fooled him into helping her, we'd guess he'll be dropped from the case. He's probably already used the $10 McDonald's gift certificate she gave to each of the other migrants. Maybe he can join the lawsuit, for that matter.
Ideally, Huerta herself might offer some very useful information in the Texas criminal investigation into the scheme. Get that woman a plea deal if she can help nail DeSantis.
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