A Latino civil rights group on Wednesday said it is doubling its reward offer for information that leads to finding or prosecuting a woman who authorities said lured migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard under false pretenses.
The League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, announced that information that leads to locating, arresting and prosecuting Perla Haydee Huerta will be rewarded with $10,000. Huerta, 43, is sought in connection to what LULAC president Domingo Garcia said was an orchestrated scheme to use the migrants from Venezuela as political pawns.
About 50 migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard last month on a flight that originated from San Antonio and was paid for with Florida state funds on the orders of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, NPR reported last week.
“It’s time that Perla Huerta goes before a grand jury and answers who hired her, who paid her and what was the purpose of her mission in this scheme? Why did Gov. DeSantis decide to engage in tribal political politics literally, a month before his election,” Garcia said during a livestreamed press conference from Washington, D.C.
“Venezuelan refugees deserve respect, deserve dignity and they deserve Christian charity, they don’t deserve to be used as political props,” he added.
Garcia said the group will also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice urging the agency to open an investigation and convene a grand jury to investigate the issue.
“These refugees were transferred across state lines from Texas to Florida and eventually to Massachusetts,” Garcia said. “We believe multiple federal crimes could have been involved in that [transport], and we’re asking the attorney general to look into that matter.
Some of the migrants have also filed a lawsuit against DeSantis, Florida Secretary of Transportation Jared W. Perdue and five unnamed persons as defendants. One of the unnamed persons in that lawsuit is also identified as “Perla” and allegedly approached a defendant identified as Yanet Doe. Doe and her family crossed the border in July at Piedras Negras, Coahuila, which is across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The family surrendered to federal officials after entering and received notices to appear before an immigration judge next month, according to the complaint.
“Perla … was asking people outside the shelter if they needed help” and were told “if the family got on the flight she arranged, then [Yanet Doe] would be provided with permanent housing, work, educational resources for her son, and help changing her address for immigration proceedings,” the lawsuit states.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Department announced last month it opened a criminal investigation into the matter to see if any crimes were committed in the scheme. Citing a source with knowledge of that investigation, the New York Times reported earlier this week that a woman named Perla Huerta was being looked into. The woman is a former counterintelligence official and a combat veteran who served in the U.S. Army, the publication reported.
Garcia said that when he met with some of the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard last month, he was also told about a woman named Perla who approached the migrants in San Antonio.
“The question is: Where is Perla Huerta? We want to find out, and so does a grand jury in Bexar County, and so do investigators, we believe, with the Department of Justice,” he said.
The Texas Newsroom has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.