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Two More DeSantis Officials Named in Martha’s Vineyard Migrant Flights Lawsuit

— November 30, 2022

The lawsuit includes additional information about a “lead recruiter” who scouted San Antonio, Texas, for migrants willing to “relocate” to the Northeast.

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of migrants flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard two months ago has been amended to include two additional members of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration.

According to CNN, the updated lawsuit now includes Tallahassee Chief of Staff James Uthmeier, “Public Safety Czar” Larry Keefe, and a woman named Perla Huerta, believed to be the “lead recruiter” for migrants in and around San Antonio, Texas.

The amended complaint broadly asserts that Florida officials, including DeSantis and the recently-named defendants, worked in concert to deceive migrants into “accepting transportation that ultimately took them” to Massachusetts.

The class action, notes CNN, was filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, a non-profit advocacy organization that represents 30 of the 50 migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard.

Most of the migrants say they were promised food, jobs, and resources if they agreed to board a flight to another state.

“The object of this scheme was not to help immigrants find a better life in northern cities but to use political fervor over immigration to boost Defendant DeSantis’ national profile,” the lawsuit alleges.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim that Keefe and Uthmeier “hatched a scheme of their own to send immigrants to the northeast United States and profit from the ensuing media coverage.”

The silhouette of a commercial aircraft backed by a vivid sunset.
Public domain image by Karen Arnold, courtesy of CC0

Keefe is specifically accused of arranging flights in San Antonio; in Texas, he purportedly remained in “frequent communication” with Uthmeier about the project.

Both Keefe and Uthmeier coordinated with Texas state officials to move the migrants, first from Texas, then to Florida, and finally to Martha’s Vineyard in coastal Massachusetts.

Huerta, described in the lawsuit as “a former combat medic and counterintelligence agent in the U.S. Army,” allegedly promised the migrants that “they would be provided employment, housing, educational opportunities, and other assistance in a large city in the Northeast.”

Huerta also reportedly told the migrants that, “upon their arrival, they would have access to stable housing, legal assistance with their immigration proceedings, jobs, and other benefits.”

CNN notes that the lawsuit claims that Huerta concealed the true purpose of the flights’ operation, as well as its Florida-based government sponsors.

The complaint suggests that Keefe, Uthmeier, and Huerta corresponded about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant busing program, and continued to work in tandem until the migrants left Texas.

“For instance, Defendant Keefe texted Defendant Huerta and another individual a link to an El Paso Times article about Governor Abbott’s immigrant busing program. Defendant Huerta responded, ‘That’s awesome. I’m sure it won’t be long before other places jump on board,’ a sentiment with which Defendant Keefe expressed his agreement,” the lawsuit claims. “Later, Defendant Keefe promptly texted Defendant Uthmeier, and thus Defendant DeSantis’s office, when the planes departed San Antonio. He sent two messages to Defendant Uthmeier stating, ‘Wheels up’ and ‘Should be in contact again around 1100 eastern.’”

Keefe and Huerta allegedly “celebrated” when the plane landed in Martha’s Vineyard on September 14.

“Defendant Huerta texted Defendant Keefe on September 14, 2022: ‘Victory Arms For you!!! Thank you for this opportunity and support.’ Defendant Keefe responded, ‘Thank you for all, Perla !!! Let’s drive on !!! Salute to you. Larry,’” the lawsuit states.


Migrants flown from Texas to Massachusetts sue “Perla,” who recruited them for flights

Two more DeSantis administration officials named in lawsuit over migrant planes flown to Martha’s Vineyard

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