“Perla,” the woman who allegedly helped organize migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, has been identified by CNN as Perla Huerta, who served as a counterintelligence agent and combat medical specialist in the US Army until August.
About 50 migrants were flown last month from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard on two planes organized by the Republican governor of Florida as part of his criticism of the federal government’s immigration and border security policies. Lawyers for the migrants have filed a class action lawsuit, claiming they were misled into agreeing to the flights after being told they would arrive for housing, jobs and help with the immigration process; no one on Martha’s Vineyard knew they were coming, local officials said.
A woman named “Perla” offered clothes, food and money to a migrant who lived on the streets of San Antonio, Texas, in exchange for finding others who would catch a flight to Massachusetts, the migrant told CNN. The recruiter was unaware of any deception and then felt betrayed by “Perla,” he told CNN.
A friend of Huerta confirmed to CNN that the woman in a photo provided to CNN by a migrant is Huerta. The New York Times reported that other migrants identified Huerta from photos taken of her in San Antonio, according to Rachel Self, an attorney who represents the migrants.
CNN has reached out to Huerta for comment.
Huerta served in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years, U.S. Army spokeswoman Madison Bonzo confirmed to CNN.
“Perla Haydee Huerta served as a Combat Medical Specialist (68W) and Counterintelligence Officer (35L) in the Regular Army from April 2002 to August 2022. She deployed to Iraq from May 2003 to July 2004 and from October 2008 to October 2009; Afghanistan from December 2010 to July 2011, September 2014 to January 2015, August 2018 to November 2018 and January 2019 to February 2019; and Djibouti from August 2013 to October 2013,” Bonzo said. “She had the rank of staff sergeant at the end of service.”
Huerta was released in August, the Times reported, citing military records.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis disputed that the migrants didn’t know where they were going, saying they signed a waiver and received a package containing a map of Martha’s Vineyard. “Obviously that’s where they were going,” he said, adding that it was all “voluntary.”
DeSantis defends the transport of migrants to Martha’s Vineyard
The Bexar County, Texas Sheriff’s Office, which includes San Antonio, will investigate the thefts to see if any laws were broken, the sheriff said.
A migrant previously told CNN he had been living on the streets of San Antonio for nearly a month when he met a woman named ‘Perla’ who offered him clothes, food and money in exchange to find other migrants who would take flights to Massachusetts. , he told CNN.
She gave him $10 McDonald’s gift cards to give to migrants who agreed to board flights, and she told him to say they and their children would be treated well when they arrived.
“She told me that the people who were going to Massachusetts, before I sent them, she told me that they were going to receive them. We were going to give them shelter, a place to stay. They were going to help them with the language, and those who had children, they were going to study,” he said.
“I never, ever knew (he was) a governor or a politician,” the recruiter said. “So my only will has always been to help people.”
The recruiter spoke to CNN during his first TV interview and was granted anonymity to protect his safety. He provided CNN with “Perla’s business card”, text messages and audio messages to authenticate his story and to provide an inside account of how the September 14 migrant flights unfolded.
Migrants say they were bribed to leave Texas
The recruiter told CNN he agreed to work with ‘Perla’ to recruit the asylum seekers once he realized they were receiving food and shelter at a hotel in San Antonio. where they would stay for a few days before boarding the flights. Most asylum seekers are from Venezuela.
“My only intention was to help people so they could get some stability,” he said. “She took them to a hotel. At the hotel, I realized that they were treated well”, including receiving meals, linen and clothing.