Child dies while en route to Chicago as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s migrant busing program

A group of migrants boards a CTA bus at Chicago's Union Station to be taken to a Salvation Army shelter after arriving from Texas on Aug. 31, 2022. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune Via Reuters, Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune Via Reuters)

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A child traveling to Chicago as part of the state’s migrant busing program died, according to a Friday afternoon statement from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The Chicago Tribune reported that the 3-year-old child died on Thursday when the bus was entering Chicago. The Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed to the newspaper that the state agency is investigating the death.

TDEM said that after the child’s health began deteriorating, the bus pulled over and an ambulance was called. The child was taken to a local hospital, where they died.

TDEM’s statement did not include information about the child’s age, gender or nationality. The agency said that all of the passengers in the bus were processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the City of Brownsville, which included a temperature check and medical screening. No passengers had showed signs of fever or medical concerns, the agency said.

According to state officials, passengers were released by the federal government and willingly chose to go to Chicago after signing a consent waiver.

“Each bus is stocked with food and water, which are distributed on board, and makes stops along the trip to refuel and switch drivers. Migrants are allowed to purchase any additional provisions or disembark at any of these stops,” the TDEM statement read.

Since April 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott has been busing migrants to Democratic-led cities across the country, which he has said is intended to provide relief to Texas border communities. Abbott’s critics have said he is using migrants as pawns to win political points. Recently, Abbott announced that over 4,600 migrants have been bused to Chicago in the past year.

The governor’s office referred The Texas Tribune to TDEM for questions about the child's death. The agency did not response to questions as of Monday evening.

When asked for comment about the child’s death White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday expressed condolences to the child’s family. She also criticized Abbott’s actions as dangerous and unlawful.

She added that Abbott has had the opportunity to work with the Biden administration on the issue of immigration, which Jean-Pierre characterized as a “broken system,” but said that Abbott’s actions have undermined the president’s efforts.

“It is unfortunate that [Abbott] continues to do this and it doesn’t just put, sadly, young migrants at risk, but it also puts at risk, the border patrol who are trying to do their job and he gets in the way of that every day,” Jean-Pierre said.

In May, an 8-year-old died while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. An internal investigation into the child’s death uncovered multiple failings by contracted personnel working at a federal border station in Harlingen, including failing to contact doctors despite the mother’s pleas for help.

“We can — and we will — do better to ensure this never happens again,” CBP acting Commissioner Troy Miller said at the time of the investigation’s release.

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