BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — A 3-year-old child died Friday on a bus full of migrants sent from South Texas to Chicago as part of Texas’ border security initiative, according to state officials.

The child died while being transported with other asylum-seekers who had crossed the border from Mexico and boarded the bus in Brownsville, Texas, as part of the state’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative, according to officials with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).

Texas authorities did not say where the child was from or why they became ill. The Illinois Department of Public Health said the child died Thursday in Marion County, in the southern part of that state.

“Once the child presented with health concerns, the bus pulled over and security personnel on board called 9-1-1 for emergency attention.”

An ambulance arrived and the child was taken to a local hospital “and was later pronounced deceased,” TDEM officials said.

State officials said every passenger boarding in Brownsville “underwent a temperature check,” and all were asked if they had medical conditions that may require medical assistance. “No passenger presented with a fever or medical concerns,” TDEM said.

Officials said the bus was “stocked” with food and water.

Temperatures in Brownsville exceeded 100 degrees on Friday and it was unclear whether weather played a factor in the death.

On Friday, dozens of asylum-seekers who were released by Department of Homeland Security officials were seen in the park across from the Gateway International Bridge after they had met with asylum officials.

Migrant families are seen on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, getting assistance from City of Brownsville after being released from the federal tent facility across the street where asylum interviews are conducted. The families were legally allowed into the United States and many were given directions to the Brownsville bus station, but some chose to take a state bus to Chicago. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

News of the death sparked criticism and calls from Democratic leaders for Texas to stop sending migrants to other states.

“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. For months, Operation Lone Star has trafficked asylum-seekers across the country in squalid conditions. Gov. Abbott’s barbaric practices are killing people,” U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, of Texas, and Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, of Illinois, said in a joint statement.

“The Biden administration has an obligation to stop them,” the lawmakers said.

“Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps created by the Biden Administration’s refusal to secure the border,” Abbott’s office said in the latest Aug. 4 news release detailing Operation Lone Star.

Nearly 30,000 migrants have been transported from Texas to other states as part of Operation Lone Star, which began in 2021, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

TDEM said “migrants willingly chose to go” on the buses after being processed and legally released by federal border officials in what they say are “overwhelmed border towns.”

The State of Texas has sent at least 4,600 migrants to Chicago. The state also has bused:

  • Over 10,600 migrants to Washington, D.C.
  • Almost 11,000 migrants to New York City
  • Over 2,000 migrants to Philadelphia
  • About 500 migrants to Denver
  • And over 240 to Los Angeles.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)