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November 16, 2022

Child on migrant bus from Texas to Philly hospitalized with illness, officials say

A total of 28 asylum seekers arrived at 30th Street Station early Wednesday morning

Immigration Migrants
Philly Migrants Texas Three Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Migrants who arrived in Philly from Texas on Wednesday were given jackets and connected with services. The came by bus came from Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has led the controversial charge to send asylum seekers entering his state to sanctuary cities.

A child who was aboard the bus of migrants that arrived in Philadelphia from Texas this morning was taken to the emergency department at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for an illness, Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said Wednesday afternoon.

The child, whose age was not provided, arrived with her mother among a total of 28 people who were sent here on the charter bus by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Over the past several months, Texas, Florida and Arizona have sent more than 13,000 people seeking asylum in the U.S. via bus to sanctuary cities after they crossed the southern border. The bus that arrived at 30th Street Station around 6 a.m. was the first to be received in Philadelphia.

EARLIER TODAY: Migrants bused from Texas arrive at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station

"We did have one child who came off the bus sick enough that we transferred that child directly to the CHOP ER, where she's being cared for right now," Bettigole said during a press briefing. The nature of the child's illness was not disclosed, and it's unclear how long the child will remain at CHOP.

"I'm deeply frustrated at the way this was done," Beittigole said of Texas' practice of dispersing migrants from its state without informing the local governments where these buses are headed.

Much like other sanctuary cities that have been destinations — including New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — Philadelphia was not notified by Texas officials about the destination of the Philly-bound charter bus in advance of its departure.

The city received information through Kensington-based nonprofit New Sanctuary Movement and another organization in Texas earlier this week, confirming the anticipated arrival at 30th Street Station this morning. The bus is believed to have left from Del Rio, Texas on Saturday. Abbott did not publicly confirm it was on its way until Tuesday afternoon.

More than 300 buses have been sent to sanctuary cities from Texas since April. The sanctuary-city description refers to local government policies that discourage law enforcement from reporting undocumented migrants to federal ICE agents without an order from a judge. 

The bus that arrived Wednesday morning included 25 adults and five children, said Amy Eusebio, executive director of Philadelphia's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Among them, 19 people went to the city's intake facility in North Philadelphia, where they have been provided temporary housing. Seven people departed Philadelphia on their own for other destinations in the region, including in New York, Ohio and Connecticut. Some were picked up by family members. Only two plan to remain in Philadelphia.

The migrants on board the bus came from countries such as Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

"I really feel like this morning was a testament to strong, public-private partnerships for welcoming and setting an example for what it could look like," Eusebio said of the city's reception plan, which has been three months in the making.

Next steps for the city and its community partners include helping people get to their final destinations and providing legal services, including education on their rights and the asylum process.

"These are people that have been fully vetted by Customs and Border (Protection)," Eusebio said. "They were inspected already and fingerprinted, and were legally paroled into the United States to pursue their claims for asylum. I know there are many questions about legality. People have been fully vetted and they are here ... the government is aware of that."

Mayor Jim Kenney said the city will be prepared to welcome additional asylum seekers if more buses are sent to Philadelphia, citing the city's recent experience receiving approximately 30,000 refugees from Afghanistan and several hundred from Ukraine.

"Are we concerned? We're concerned about everything, but we'll get it done," Kenney said. "It's just what we should be about. This is, in my opinion, what this country is."

Kenney took aim at Abbott, who was re-elected for a third term as Texas governor last week. Abbott, along with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have spent millions of dollars on their bus policies in order to counteract border crossings in a political push for tougher security and immigration reform.

"It always amazes me that politicians, including the governor of Texas, talk ad nauseam about Christian values ... but display very little, if any," Kenney said.

Philadelphia's Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Mayor's Fund for Philadelphia have created the Philadelphia Welcoming Fund to give Philadelphia residents a secure way to contribute to local efforts to support immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers arriving in the city. Donated supplies cannot be accepted. More than a dozen local organizations are involved in providing shelter, emergency health screenings, food, water and other supplies to those who arrive in Philadelphia.

Andy Kang, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, said Wednesday's effort is a positive sign for the city's preparedness and readiness to embrace migrants who arrive in Philadelphia.

"I thought it was particularly fitting that Philadelphia came together on every level, whether it was every city employee that was involved with this project (or) all the partners that came together," Kang said. "The level of care that was given ... the thoughtfulness and intention and love that was shown to these folks that came off the bus, who have been through a terrible amount of stuff along the way, was very encouraging."