Florida’s Ron DeSantis and shady-as-fuck recruiter Perla Huerta have been named to new and updated lawsuits that are challenging the political stunt that lured vulnerable migrants recently processed by federal immigration officials onto GOP-connected contracted flights that then dumped them in Martha’s Vineyard like bags of trash.
In late October, legal advocates representing migrants targeted under the political stunt said Huerta would be named in a class action lawsuit filed the month prior, after numerous outlets publicly identified the “recruiter” as a recently discharged former combat medic and counterintelligence agent. Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) has now amended the lawsuit to include Huerta, as well as two DeSantis staffers, and the private contractor paid ridiculous amounts of money to move migrants from Texas to Massachusetts.
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“The 86-page amended complaint outlines how DeSantis and his co-conspirators hatched and executed a plan to induce vulnerable Latinx immigrants in Texas to board privately chartered flights through false promises of jobs, shelter, and immigration assistance,” LCR said in a release. “Text messages and other documents show, for example, that Lawrence Keefe, Florida’s ‘Public Safety Czar,’ and James Uthmeier, Governor DeSantis’s Chief of Staff, were intimately involved in the plot from inception through to execution.”
“The amended complaint also outlines a web of involvement from Vertol Systems Company, Inc., the politically-connected plane company that chartered the Martha’s Vineyard flights, and the infamous ‘Perla,’ now identified as Perla Huerta,” the release continued. “To date, Vertol has received over $1.5 million from the State of Florida for the scheme.”
Keefe in fact once represented Vertol. Text messages reported by the Miami Herald in late October revealed that the detestable Huerta left hundreds of dollars for one unwitting recruiter she used hidden in an envelope behind a San Antonio restaurant before deleting her social media history and selling her house. Nope, nothing shady going here at all, folks.
Another recent lawsuit, this one filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations, also targets DeSantis, as well as Jared Perdue, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation. That complaint states that Florida is “infringing upon the federal government’s immigration system by creating a separate, parallel immigration system,” and is violating the “Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, through its state-sponsored harassment of immigrants based on race, color, and national origin.”
Recall that these migrants were still in Texas after being processed by federal immigration officials and had not stepped one foot in Florida. DeSantis, who had reportedly complained that his state doesn’t have a border with Mexico that he can use to his political advantage, went to Texas to create a problem.
“The Constitution is clear—the sole and exclusive power to regulate immigration policy is granted to the federal government, not the states,” said Paul Chávez, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The scheme by Gov. DeSantis and the State of Florida to use taxpayer funds for the ‘relocation’ of ‘unauthorized aliens’ is a blatant and unlawful attempt to harass immigrants at the state level. Florida’s relocation program constitutes a discriminatory attack on immigrant communities, and Gov. DeSantis’ unconstitutional actions must be stopped.”
DeSantis’ stunt has also worked out great for Vertol, which has now received nearly $3.5 million in secretive payments from Florida to date. Vertol subcontracted two flights to UltimateJet Charters for $153,000, Tampa Bay Times reported. But “[n]o information has been released on the remaining $3.3 million of state funds apparently paid to Vertol.” DeSantis “has not only failed to turn over details of how the state money has been spent,” it also hasn’t forced Vertol “to abide by the state law that requires it to turn over records related to the project,” either. If it seems like this whole operation stinks to high heaven, that’s because it does.
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