The mysterious (or one of the mysterious women identified as) “Perla” who lured migrants onto flights as part of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-immigrant campaign has been identified as Perla Huerta, “a former combat medic and counterintelligence agent” who “was discharged in August after two decades in the U.S. Army,” The New York Times has reported.
The circumstances under which Huerta was discharged from the military after 20 years, how she was recruited to work for DeSantis’ stunt just weeks after leaving the military, and what exact instructions were given to her and by whom remain unclear. The New York Times reports that efforts to reach her were “unsuccessful.”
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From the very start of DeSantis’ politically motivated transportation of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard as part of his 2024 presidential aspirations, Perla emerged as a mysterious figure who was central in tricking vulnerable people, mostly from Venezuela, onto flights out of Texas.
One migrant named Jose told The Washington Post that Perla offered shelter, work, hope, and opportunity if they took up her offer. But it was all a lie, at least when it came to the physical promises. Migrants had been given brochures that falsely claimed they were eligible for all sorts of benefits.
Jose told The Washington Post that after he was unceremoniously dumped in Martha’s Vineyard after being made promises in San Antonio, he heard only one more time from Perla. She relayed a message to him that people there “will take care of you.” Well, the community there did help, but not in the way Perla had promised him and many others.
But Perla’s identification in recent days “opens the door to a host of new inquiries that could implicate DeSantis more deeply in the scheme’s sordid aspects,” Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent writes. That’s because Perla stands to now be named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by migrants who were lured by DeSantis’ scheme, which “could pave the way to deposing her for details about the DeSantis administration’s potential involvement in deceiving the migrants.”
That lawsuit alleges DeSantis and other Florida official executed “a premeditated, fraudulent, and illegal scheme.” The New York Times has since offered a startling view into the tactics behind DeSantis’ plot, including Perla basically preying on migrants, approaching one in the aisle of a supermarket near a migrant shelter in San Antonio. “He had told her he was searching for work, and she made him an offer he found hard to resist,” the report said.
“What exact instructions were given to Perla and others?” attorney Oren Sellstrom asked in the report. “Who put her up to it?”
It’s a question we’d all like to know, in particular involvement from DeSantis, who has apparently bemoaned that unlike Texas, his state doesn’t share a lengthy border with our neighbor Mexico, The New York Times reported last month. DeSantis reportedly “complained that he didn’t have the same to use as a backdrop, according to one person familiar with the conversation,” the report said. So, he went to Texas to come up with a problem.
”Perla Huerta—the woman DeSantis paid to lie to refugees to traffic and abandon them in Martha’s Vineyard—is a former Army counterintelligence agent,” tweeted Sawyer Hackett, a senior adviser to former presidential candidate Julián Castro. “$12 million in taxpayer dollars spent on an intel operation to torment families.”
The New York Times described one absolutely heart-wrenching moment when Martha’s Vineyard community members helped a migrant call loved ones in Venezuela. The man appeared “broken,” a staffer said in the report. “’My love, we were tricked,’ he told his wife, weeping uncontrollably. ‘This woman lied to us. She lied.’”
“As Brian Beutler argues, it’s critical that the country understands the truly sordid and potentially criminal nature of DeSantis’s scheme,” Sargent continued in his column. “This would illustrate how central the toxic combination of official corruption and racist agitprop has become to GOP politics these days.”
Who is the mysterious 'Perla' who aided Ron DeSantis' craven political stunt?
Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.