Migrant boy, 5, dies after becoming sick at Pilsen shelter, CPD says; 4 other children hospitalized

4 other children and a teen girl from the same shelter were also hospitalized overnight and Tuesday morning, CFD says

Tuesday, December 19, 2023
City investigating after migrant child becomes sick, dies at Pilsen shelter
A Chicago migrant boy died after becoming sick at a shelter in Pilsen, police said. He was identified by the medical examiner as Jean Carlos Martinez.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A little boy who was living in a migrant shelter in Pilsen died Sunday and a one-year-old girl was transported to the hospital, Chicago police are investigating.

The boy was identified to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office as 5-year-old Jean Carlos Martinez.

According to a preliminary police report, the boy had a seizure and had been complaining of a fever the day before. He was taken from the shelter near Cermak Road and Halsted Street to Comer Children's Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

"The boy started convulsing and bleeding," said a migrant who witnessed the medical emergency through a translator. "A woman who works there tended to him until the paramedics arrived. They were still trying to revive him when they took him away."

That witness said it took a long time for an ambulance to come.

"The ambulance took a while and the boy turned purple. They did not give him first aid. There is no first aid kits. There is no medicine to reduce the fever," she said.

Four more children and a teenager were also taken to local hospitals to have illnesses treated.

A 1-year-old girl was transported to UIC from the same shelter with fever and vomiting, the Chicago Fire Department said. The girl's condition was not immediately known.

A 4-year-old girl was taken to Insight Hospital and Medical Center with a fever, CFD said; a few hours later, an 8-year-old girl was taken to Insight with a fever as well. A 1-year-old girl was taken to UIC Hospital with a fever, according to CFD.

Chicago fire officials also said an 18-year-old girl was taken to Insight not long after midnight with a fever.

SEE ALSO: Oak Park village officials tell migrants they must move out by end of January due to cost issues

Police said there no one is in custody and according to a source, the incident doesn't appear to be criminal.

Mayor Brandon Johnson expressed his condolences and said many of the arriving migrants are unfortunately coming to Chicago already sick.

"We're gathering information as I said before, at every single site throughout the City of Chicago, we provide onsite medical care," the mayor said.

According to the city's migrant dashboard, about 2,300 people live at the six story warehouse-turned housing complex. It's one of the Chicago's largest migrant shelters as the city struggles to find housing for busloads of new arrivals.

Many taking their kids to school Monday morning said that several illnesses are spreading inside the Pilsen shelter.

One asylum seeker who did not want to be identified said that anyone who needs medical attention is on their own unless it's urgent.

"Yesterday, I was talking to another woman - and she was saying the same thing," she said. "And she was told that the girl's temperature had to go up one more degree in order to get her medical help."

"There is a chicken pox outbreak," said one 28-year-old migrant mother of two. "There is a flu outbreak. Children have scabies. There are bed bugs. Anything you can imagine is in that shelter."

"A few days ago my daughter had a fever," said a 22-year-old migrant mother. "I was told I had to wait for an appointment. They got three appointments and took other children but not my daughter. Thank goodness she's alright."

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez of the 25th Ward conducted an emergency walkthrough of the shelter Thursday afternoon. He said city leaders are quickly trying to get more help to migrants in an emergency.

"I was here today making sure we have given them a direct number, available for people to be able to record it, something that unfortunately in the past was not done," he said.

Sigcho-Lopez said when he did the walkthrough he saw at least 10 rooms that were used for isolation, and at least half of those rooms appeared to be full with children who are currently sick.

But the mayor and Sigcho-Lopez placed the blame for the boy's death squarely on border states and federal complacency.

"At every single site throughout the city of Chicago, we provide onsite medical care. In fact, the county government has just put forth more dollars for more health care, but I want you to hear me good: They're showing up sick Do you hear me? They're showing up sick," Johnson said.

"We cannot put all of this on the shoulder of Chicagoans," said Sigcho-Lopez. "These tragedies can be prevented if we get the resources that we need."

He said the family of the boy who died are no longer staying at the shelter and are now being cared for elsewhere.

Now calling for an investigation, Congresswoman Delia Ramirez wrote, in part, "Every shelter should be a safe, healthy space for families. Any facility that falls short of fulfilling that responsibility must be held accountable."

Sigcho-Lopez issued a statement earlier saying, "We are heartbroken at the tragic death of 5-year-old Jean Carlos Martinez, who was living in the temporary shelter at 2241 S. Halsted Street. Initial reports indicate that the child was suffering from a medical emergency and passed away shortly after arriving to Comer Children's Hospital. City officials are providing support to the family and are still gathering information on this tragedy.

In August of this year, a 3 year old child passed away in a bus bound for our city. These deaths are unacceptable and we repeat our call on our institutions to step up to ensure no more deaths and to alleviate suffering in our communities.

"We continue to call on our federal and state leaders to step up and provide the necessary support needed for adequate housing and the basic needs of our new neighbors. The state of Illinois welcomed over 17,000 Ukrainian refugees and put forth all preventive measures to ensure no risk of tragedies like the one we see today. The spectacle that our new neighbors arriving at the southern border have faced in comparison is a demonstration of our failure to end systemically racist injustices - I call on our leaders to end these disparities in treatment of our new neighbors today to prevent more tragedies.

"My heart and my prayers go out to the Martinez family. The City will continue to provide resources and support to the Martinez family during this difficult time and we call on state and federal leaders to come together today to meet the urgency of this moment."