© 2022 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

LULAC offers reward to ID person who convinced migrants to fly from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard

A young girl is shown staying at a shelter on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., after she and dozens of other migrants arrived by plane unannounced Wednesday.
Eve Zuckoff
/
WCAI
A young girl is shown staying at a shelter on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., after she and dozens of other migrants arrived by plane unannounced Wednesday.

The League of United Latin American Citizens is offering a reward for information leading to the identification of a person reported to have misled migrants in San Antonio into taking a flight to Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week.

In an exclusive interview with The Texas Newsroom, LULAC President Domingo Garcia said his organization has talked to migrants who have said a woman known as “Perla” told them they were going to Boston and promised them three months of work.

“It’s a con woman who we believe is engaging in human trafficking [and] virtual kidnapping,” Garcia, who is also an attorney, said.

He added LULAC is doing whatever it can to identify the woman so that no other migrants fall for it. He said his organization is offering a reward of $5,000 for information that could help identify the woman.

He said the goal is to file criminal charges with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office.

On Wednesday, about 50 migrants — most of them from Venezuela — arrived by plane in ritzy Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. The flight originated in San Antonio, but was paid by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has been floated as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024.

According to reporting by NPR, the plane made a stop in Florida and in South Carolina before landing in Martha’s Vineyard. The migrants have said they didn’t spend time in Florida.

The migrants have said a woman who identified herself as “Perla” lured them into boarding a plane and promised expedited work permits.

“She's actually engaged in a conspiracy to have them commit a crime to work illegally in the United States in violation of federal law,” Garcia said. “This is where I think Perla has screwed up.”

Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, also said he believes DeSantis' actions in Texas amount to human trafficking.

“These guys are engaging in what I believe could be criminal behavior but is certainly sadistic behavior,” Castro said.

Over the last few months, unauthorized migrants who have arrived in Texas and are awaiting their asylum hearing have been offered a free ride to Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago as part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s new initiative to push back against the Biden administration.

The Republican governors in Arizona and Florida have followed Abbott’s lead and have also started transporting migrants out of state.

But the reports of migrants being lured into getting on a plane is unprecedented.

Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Gov. Abbott, said in an email the Republican governor was “not involved in these initial plans to Martha’s Vineyard.”

She said the governor appreciates DeSantis for “the support in responding to this national crisis and helping Texans.”

But Garcia, with LULAC, said the strategy of “deceiving” migrants is “cruel.”

“It's shameful that Gov. Abbott and Gov. DeSantis are using immigrants in this manner, and we're taking actions to track down this woman,” he said.

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.