Perla Huerta: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

perla huerta

Getty Perla Huerta is being investigated for her role in recruiting migrants from San Antonio, pictured here, to be transported to Martha's Vineyard.

Perla Huerta is a former Army counterintelligence agent being investigated in connection to Venezuelan migrants solicited to travel from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard in a September 2022 operation organized by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Huerta was identified by The New York Times as the woman named “Perla” who aslyum seekers said approached them in Texas and convinced them to take the trip to Massachusetts. The program, funded through $12 million in state funds set aside by the state to transport migrants out of Florida, led to 48 people being flown to the tourist destination, The Times reported.

The migrants were flown to Martha’s Vineyard on a charter plane owned by an airline company with ties to DeSantis, the newspaper reported. The Times wrote on October 2, 2022, “And, in the middle of it all, a woman with a background in military counterintelligence who investigators believe was sent to Texas from Tampa in order to fill the planes.”

The Times wrote, “Until now, little has been known about the woman whom migrants said identified herself only by her first name, ‘Perla,’ when she solicited them to join the flights. A person briefed on the San Antonio Sheriff’s office investigation into the matter told The New York Times that the person being looked at in connection with the operation is a woman named Perla Huerta.”

Here’s what you need to know about Perla Huerta:

1. Perla Huerta Recruited Migrants With Offers of a Free Flight to Massachusetts, Where They Could Get Jobs & Resources, The Times Reports

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told reporters, “Our understanding is that a Venezuelan migrant was paid what we would call a ‘birddog fee’ to recruit approximately 50 migrants from the area around a migrants resource center on San Pedro here in San Antonio.”

Salazar said the migrants were “lured under false pretenses.” Salazar said they migrants were flown to Florida and then on to Massachusetts. He said the migrants were “promised work” and the “solution to several of their problems.”

The Times reported that Huerta was identified through a Venezuelan migrant who had been working with her. Another migrant also confirmed her identity through a photo shown to them by The Times. Heavy was not able to reach Huerta for comment.

The newspaper wrote, “Several of the migrants on Martha’s Vineyard photographed her during the recruitment process in San Antonio, according to Rachel Self, a lawyer representing the migrants. Lawyers working with them were able to match those photos with others online and in social media belonging to a woman named Perla Huerta.”

The Washington Post wrote, “A smiling blond-haired woman in a cowboy hat approached. Her name was Perla, she said. And she could fix all their troubles. It was a pitch Perla had been making to other newly homeless migrants huddled on San Antonio’s streets. She drove a rented white SUV and promised food, jobs and transportation.”

2. Perla Haydee Huerta Was Also a Combat Medic & Served in Iraq & Afghanistan Before Leaving the U.S. Army in 2022, the Newspaper Reported

According to The Times, Huerta worked in counterintelligence in the U.S. Army and was also a combat medic in the military. She “was discharged last month after two decades in the U.S. Army” and served deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, military records obtained by The Times show. Court records obtained by Heavy show she served in an Army Special Forces unit.

An Army spokesperson told CNN, “Perla Haydee Huerta served as a Combat Medic Specialist (68W) and Counterintelligence Agent (35L) in the regular Army from April 2002 to August 2022. She deployed to Iraq from May 2003 to July 2004 and 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. She held the rank of master sergeant at the end of service.”

Huerta is 43, according to public records viewed by Heavy. Little other information about Huerta has been found. She has not commented publicly about the accusations against her. DeSantis and others have also not spoken about her role. Huerta does not have a criminal record, other than a 2017 speeding ticket in Okaloosa County, Florida, court records show.

The mysterious blonde woman driving a white truck named “Perla” was at the center of many reports about the operation to move migrants from Texas to Massachusetts in the days after it happened. Some on social media falsely speculated the woman was DeSantis’ spokesperson Christina Pushaw.

Emmanuel, a 27-year-old migrant from Venezuela, told San Antonio Report that “Perla” paid him $200 to recruit people for the flight. “Perla informed me that in those sanctuary states, the state has the benefits to help migrants. I’ve just been the mediator because I like to help people,” he told the non-profit news organization.

The news site wrote, “Perla said that she had no involvement in organizing the flights and that she just wanted to help people and sign them up to board the flight, according to Emmanuel. When Perla first offered to pay Emmanuel for the migrants’ contact information, he was hesitant. He said Perla said she got the money from an ‘anonymous benefactor’ and that the flight was paid for by that person.”

3. ‘Perla’ Was Named in a Lawsuit Filed by a Group of Migrants

“Perla” is named in a lawsuit filed by a group of migrants who were transported from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, according to court documents. Her full name is not included in the court filing. The lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts federal court on September 20.

The attorneys representing the migrants named “Perla” as “Defendant Doe #1.” The lawyers wrote in the filing that she is “an as-yet unnamed individual who targeted many of the putative class members in San Antonio, Texas, to induce them onto flights to Martha’s Vineyard. Defendant Doe #1 told plaintiffs her name was ‘Perla.’ The plaintiffs will amend the complaint when they ascertain her real name.”

One of the migrants told her lawyers her family “encountered” the woman “who identified herself as ‘Perla’ who was asking people outside the shelter if the needed help.” The migrant said “Perla” gave her phone number to her and the migrant later called her. According to court documents, Huerta asked the woman for her and her family’s immigration notices and then took them to a hotel, where they stayed for five days.

The migrant said Huerta told her “if the family got on the flight she arranged,” they “would be provided with permanent housing, work, educational resources for her son and help changing her address for immigrant proceedings,” according to court documents. Huerta then arranged a shuttle to take the family to a charter flight, telling them they would go to a “sanctuary state,” according to court documents.

The woman identified as Huerta also approached “several dozen people” in San Antonio and told them she had “helped many Venezuelans before,” according to court documents. She said she could get them a plane and a hotel. The migrants told their attorneys “Defendant Doe #1” gave them a $10 McDonald’s gift card in exchange for signing a document that was not fully translated into Spanish.

4. Huerta, Also Known as Perla Wilbur, Is Divorced With a Young Daughter, Lives in Tampa, & Has Family in the San Antonio Area

Huerta lives in Tampa, Florida, according to The Times and public records. She has been divorced since 2018 and has children, according to public records. She previously lived in Niceville, Florida, where she and her husband divorced, Okaloosa County court records show. Huerta and her ex-husband, who also served in the military, were married in 2005 and separated in 2016. They have a 9-year-old daughter.

Huerta has ties to San Antonio. She lived there for several years before joining the Army and still has family in the region, according to public records viewed by Heavy. Huerta’s family could not be reached by Heavy for comment. Huerta was stationed at the Eglin Air Force base in Florida at the time of her divorce, reords obtained by Heavy show. She was part of the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group, records show.

It was not immediately clear if Huerta has hired an attorney who could comment on her behalf. Huerta’s social media pages, including her Facebook page, which was under her maiden name, Perla Wilur, appear to have been deleted or made private. Heavy was not able to locate a photo of her.

5. The Bexar County Sheriff Said ‘We Want to Know What Was Promised to the Migrants

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar launched an investigation into the transportation of the migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, the sheriff’s office announced on Facebook on September 19.

Salazar told reporters, “It is way too early for me to start naming any suspects. We do have the names of some suspects involved that we believe are persons of interest in this case at this point. But I won’t be parting with those names, I think to be fair. Suffice it to say we will be opening up a case.”

The sheriff said investigators want to figure out what the migrants went through when they were in Bexar County. “We want to know what was promised to them. What if anything did they sign? Did they even understand the document that was put in front of them if they signed something? Or was this strictly a predatory measure?”

Salazar continued, “Somebody coming and preying upon people who are here minding their own business and are here legally, not bothering a soul, but somebody saw fit to come from another state, hunt them down, prey upon them and then take advantage of their desperate situation, just for the sake of political theater, just for the sake of making some sort of a statement. And putting people’s lives in danger. I believe people need to be held accountable for it to the extent possible.”