3-year-old dies aboard migrant bus headed from Texas to Chicago

A 3-year-old child who was riding a migrant bus from Texasbound for Chicago died in Illinois, officials said Friday.

The child's death is the first Texas has announced after Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star last year started shuttling thousands of migrants to cities including Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles.

The 3-year-old presented "health concerns" on board the bus that departed from Brownsville, Texas, according to the Texas Department of Emergency Management, and the bus pulled over and called 911.

The child received treatment from paramedics and later died at a hospital, according to Texas' emergency management agency. All passengers had their temperature taken and were asked whether they had any medical conditions before boarding, the agency said.Texas authorities did not say where the child was from or why the child became ill. The Illinois Department of Public Health said the child died Thursday in Marion County, about 130 miles north of Illinois' southern border with Missouri.

The Illinois health department is investigating the death, officials confirmed with USA TODAY.

"IDPH is working with local health officials, state police and federal authorities to the fullest extent possible to get answers in this tragic situation," spokesperson Mike Claffey said.

Chicago Mayor Lightfoot told Abbott to stop busing migrants

Moving people to municipalities already struggling to house and support people experiencing homeless has consistently fueled criticism from cities' mayors.

In April, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot urged Abbott to stop busing migrants to Chicago, calling the move “inhumane” and “dangerous.”

The city shouldered more than 8,000 migrants sent by Abbott since August 2022, many of whom required extensive care which wasn't addressed by Texas before sending them to Chicago, Lightfoot said in April.

“Chicago is a welcoming city and we collaborate with county, state and community partners to rise to this challenge, but your lack of consideration or coordination in an attempt to cause chaos and score political points has resulted in a critical tipping point in our ability to receive individuals and families in a safe, orderly and dignified way,” Lightfoot said.

Texas elected officials speak out against Abbott's bus program

The 3-year-old child who died began showing symptoms of fever and diarrhea on the bus before losing consciousness, Rep, Joaquin Castro told the New York Times.

The Texas Democrat, whose office was briefed on the child's death, criticized Abbott's treatment of migrants in a statement posted to his office's website Friday.

“We are saddened and horrified, but not surprised, by the death of a 3-year-old child on a state-sponsored bus from Texas to Chicago," the statement says. "For months, Operation Lone Star has trafficked asylum-seekers across the country in squalid conditions. Governor Abbott’s barbaric practices are killing people."

What is Operation Lone Star?

Texas officials have bused more than 30,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities across the country since Abbott's Operation Lone Star began last year.

This year, Abbott has tacked on new measures as part of Operation Lone Star, including massive buoys placed in the middle of the Rio Grande, which forms the border between Texas and Mexico.

The Biden administration is suing Texas over the line of buoys, saying the barrier in the water could lead to environmental and humanitarian problems. On Aug. 3, an unidentified body was found dead stuck to the buoys.

In recent months, Texas officials have also confirmed they are separating some migrant parents from their children, a USA TODAY investigation found.

Under Texas' bus program, the state says migrants give written consent and agree on the destinations where they are headed. Texas officials say the buses are stocked with food and water and that migrants are allowed to get off early.

At least four migrant children have died this year in federal custody, including an 8-year-old girl from Panama who died in May after arriving with a heart condition and sickle cell anemia. Last month, an independent report found that Border Patrol does not have protocols for assessing medical needs of children with preexisting conditions.

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