The Search for “Perla”

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The national news media seems to have lost interest entirely in the story of the Venezuelan immigrants shipped off to Martha’s Vineyard as part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s reelection campaign. The meta-story of course continues to get some attention — how it plays into the midterm, who it helps or hurts as a political story, etc. But I mean what actually happened. That’s unfortunate both in journalistic and political terms because even the barest look at the details we know make it very unlikely this was an official or on-the-books government operation. And yet it’s one Gov. Desantis has publicly taken credit for and said was paid for with taxpayer funds from Florida.

In the absence of any national press interest the search for answers has been left to a few local news outlets and LULAC, the Latino civil rights organization. Representatives of LULAC, including national president Domingo Garcia, went to Martha’s Vineyard on Friday to talk to the asylum-seekers and get more details about what happened. They were able to flesh out the story about “Perla” and her team in San Antonio. Basically all the stories matched to a T. LULAC has posted a $5,000 reward for information leading to her identification. LULAC is also canvassing this week in San Antonio trying to find out more information.

From articles in the Cape Cod Times and the San Antonio Report, we learn that Perla was a tall blonde woman with a light complexion. She reportedly worked with two other women and two men, one of whom drove a white pickup. They apparently housed the migrants at a hotel near the airport for multiple days as they attempted to reach a quota. The quota was apparently 60 and they were disappointed they weren’t able to get a sufficient number of people. Nothing about this sounds remotely like any kind of state government run or directed operation. At least not on the books.

Judd Legum of Popular Information got a copy of a brochure the migrants were provided allegedly describing benefits available in Massachusetts, which was apparently fabricated by those behind the operation. The brochure was given to Legum by a group called Lawyers for Civil Rights, which says it has information that can be used to identify the people in question.

There seems to be a legitimate argument that what happened broke federal laws because the individuals were induced to get on a plane and travel across state lines based on false information. What should interest us more than the specific laws is that this clearly was not a state action. It looks much more like Project Veritas-type stunt. I’m not saying Veritas was behind it. I don’t think they are. But that kind of group: right-wing pranksters. In some way, DeSantis was either coordinating with them or funding them. It’s very much worth finding out which it is. You cannot look at any of this and think it was the work of government workers. Just not how those people operate. This is not to mention the fact that it still hasn’t been explained how or why the state of Florida had people prowling around a refugee center in Texas looking for people who could be coaxed to get on a plane which would fly surreptitiously to Martha’s Vineyard.

There’s a big story here and it’s no surprise that DeSantis is refusing to answer specific questions.

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