Lawmakers demand Greg Abbott end ‘barbaric’ migrant busing after three-year-old’s death from Texas to Chicago

More than 30,000 asylum seekers have been removed from Texas under the governor’s plan

Alex Woodward
Saturday 12 August 2023 19:35 BST
Related video: Joaquin Castro calls border buoys ‘barbaric’

A three-year-old child has died while travelling on a bus sponsored by the government of Texas to remove migrants from the state and send them to Democratic-led cities across the country.

The child’s death on 10 August appears to be the first under the state’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott on state-sponsored buses that have sent thousands of people seeking asylum in the US to cities hundreds of miles from where they were initially processed.

All of the passengers on the bus had been processed by federal authorities and the city of Brownsville, including temperature checks and medical screenings, according to Texas officials.

A statement from the Texas Division of Emergency Management said the bus pulled over and an ambulance was called to the scene when the child’s health began to deteriorate. The child died at a local hospital as the bus was entering Chicago.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is “working with local health officials, state police and federal authorities to the fullest extent possible to get answers in this tragic situation,” the agency said in a statement.

The statements did not include information about the child’s nationality, age or gender.

“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,” according to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Democratic US Reps Joaquin Castro of Texas and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia of Illinois have urged President Joe Biden’s administration to step in.

“Migrant parents make the journey to our country seeking safety and stability for their children. We are saddened and horrified, but not surprised, by the death of a three-year-old child on a state-sponsored bus from Texas to Chicago,” they said in a joint statement.

“For months, Operation Lone Star has trafficked asylum-seekers across the country in squalid conditions,” they added. “Governor Abbott’s barbaric practices are killing people, and the Biden administration has an obligation to stop them.”

The governor has been busing migrants to Democratic-led cities since April 2022 in what he has called an effort to relieve US-Mexico border cities, widely derided as a politically motivated stunt by the White House and critics.

More than 30,000 people seeking asylum have been bused from Texas to several other states within the last year, including at least 4,600 migrants who were sent to Chicago.

The governor also has sent several buses to Los Angeles in recent months.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 Republican nomination for president, also is under law enforcement scrutiny after sending several chartered planes sponsored by his administration to Massachusetts and California.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has called the efforts “despicable” stunts after a Texas-sponsored bus dropped 42 people, including children, at her city in June.

“State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement that month.

At least four migrant children have died in federal custody this year. An eight-year-old child with a heart condition and sickle cell anemia died while in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection in May. An internal investigation revealed the failures of contracted personnel at the US-Mexico border to seek medical aid despite pleas from the child’s mother, and a total lack of protocol for border agents to assess the medical needs of children arriving at the southern border.

The Independent has requested comment from the White House and Illinois Governor JB Pritzker.

Governor Abbott’s office has directed requests for comment to the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

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