In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, 2022, a group of migrants based in San Antonio, Texas, was ushered onto a plane with no clear destination.
Some were reportedly told they were bound for Boston, where they would be warmly greeted and provided with essential resources. Others reportedly had no idea where the plane would take them. But all the occupants were surprised to find themselves on the unfamiliar ground of Martha’s Vineyard, where officials received little to no warning of the migrants’ arrival.
On Sunday, the weekly television news magazine “60 Minutes” broadcast a report reviewing the incident and unveiling new details about the migrants affected by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s decision to send the group to Massachusetts.
Here are five things to know from the segment reported by “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi.
‘She was saying, “We want to send you to a state where there are not so many migrants, and you’re going to have a lot of help, because you’ll have housing and all that.” '
Daniel Cauro, a 30-year-old man from Venezuela who was on the plane, was outside a resource center in San Antonio when a woman called “Perla” stopped to offer him help, he told “60 Minutes.” “Perla” is Perla Huerta, a former US Army counterintelligence agent, who was in Texas looking for migrants to fill the planes that would eventually be sent to Martha’s Vineyard. Huerta frequently updated the Florida governor’s office on her progress, according to the report.
Some of the migrants were enticed to sign ‘consent to transport’ forms with $10 McDonalds gift cards.
The day before the flight took off, Huerta encouraged the migrants who would be boarding the plane to sign “consent to transport” forms by offering them $10 gift cards to McDonald’s, according to the report. “She said here’s a card, but I need you to sign this sheet. And we said OK. We were hungry. So we signed it,” Cauro said.
‘They exploited them, took advantage of the situation that they were in ... and then took them there under false pretenses.’
In Texas, Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said the migrants were dropped off in Martha’s Vineyard with expectations that they would have jobs and housing. Many were given informational pamphlets while on the plane that advertised benefits and services, cash and housing assistance, employment programs, job placement and English classes — none of which the migrants would actually have access to.
‘Ironically, it provided them a completely independent available path to legalize their status here.’
Rachel Self, a criminal defense and immigration lawyer from the nearby island of Chappaquiddick, said if immigration officials determine the 49 migrants were victimized, they could receive justice in the form of a U visa. To qualify for a U visa, they must have certification from a law enforcement official that they were victims of a crime and that they suffered as a result of the crime.
No one in the Florida governor’s office has been charged with any crimes related to the flights.
Salazar recommended felony and misdemeanor criminal charges be filed against two suspects who he declined to name but described as the recruiters involved in the operation, but so far that has not happened.
Read Globe reports from when migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard last year:
- ‘An impossible dream’: Before flights to Martha’s Vineyard, migrants endured harrowing odyssey
- In text messages, coordinators of Ron DeSantis’ migrant flights to Martha’s Vineyard reveled in plotting surprise political stunt
- Details emerge about mystery woman who led migrants to Martha’s Vineyard
- ‘No one was alerted on the island.’ Planes of Venezuelan migrants land on Martha’s Vineyard.