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Text messages show organizers of Martha’s Vineyard migrant flights celebrating success

“The network has grown exponentially! We believe we could probably generate another 50 inside 48 hours.”

Migrants who had been flown to Martha's Vineyard are taken to a bus for a ferry to the mainland. Matt Cosby/The New York Times

In September, about 50 migrants were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, shocking the small island community, the migrants themselves, and leaders around the country. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who took credit for the operation, and a close group of officials and executives were not surprised. Their plan had worked.

Now, text messages obtained by The Boston Globe detail how the flights came together and the mindsets of the planners as they organized the operation. The messages, obtained through a public records request by the Globe, show how giddy the planners were as they executed their political stunt. 

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Perla Huerta, a former US Army counterintelligence specialist who the migrants said recruited them for the trip, expressed her joy to DeSantis’ public safety czar Larry Keefe on Sept. 14, the day the migrants touched down in Massachusetts. 

“Victory Arms For you!!!! Thank you for this opportunity and support,” Huerta wrote to Keefe. 

He responded: “Thank you for all, Perla !!! Let’s drive on !!!” 

Keefe and Huerta exchanged numerous messages in the weeks prior, the Globe reported. Keefe shared articles with Huerta about the topic of illegal immigration, including an El Paso Times article about Tex Gov. Greg Abbott’s program to bus migrants to places like New York City and Washington, D.C.

“I’m sure it won’t be long before other places jump on board,” Huerta reportedly responded.

Huerta also asked Keefe for advice on where to find migrants, according to the Globe. She sent him screenshots of Google searches containing questions like “What states are immigrants going to?” or “Which US state has the least amount of immigrants?”

Huerta kept Keefe in the loop on the various places she searched for migrants in San Antonio, including churches, a transportation office, and a Stripes convenience store parking lot.

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In August, Keefe and Huerta discussed unwinding and celebrating with wine after a “productive” week.

“If you need wine to unwind or anything from store , since you seem to be putting out fires, let me know and I’ll pick it up,” Huerta wrote to Keefe. 

“Thank you, but I’m all set. Perhaps tomorrow evening we can celebrate a productive week with some wine at dinner,” Keefe responded. 

Businessman James Montgomerie also kept Keefe in the loop. Montgomerie owns Vertol Systems Inc., the transportation company used by Florida officials to fly the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, according to the Globe

“We are at 34 tonight confirmed on the manifest, will be at 50 by Tuesday no problem,” Montgomerie wrote to Keefe on Sept. 10. 

The next day, Montgomerie sent a message to Keefe confirming that they had reached 50 migrants, accompanied by a thumbs up emoji. 

“Congratulations. Great work,” Keefe responded. 

“The network has grown exponentially! We believe we could probably generate another 50 inside 48 hours,” Montgomerie wrote. 

In the weeks since Huerta, Montgomerie, Keefe, and DeSantis executed their plan, law enforcement officials said that the migrants were lured to Massachusetts under false pretenses. A Texas sheriff investigating the incident certified last month that the migrants were victims of a crime.

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