Reprinted from CBP website:
Effective July 1, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) emergency or temporary passports must be electronic passports (e-Passports) to be eligible for travel to the United States under the VWP. This includes VWP applicants who present emergency or temporary passports to transit the United States. An e-Passport contains an integrated chip that stores biographic data, a digitized photograph, and other information about the true bearer and indicated by this symbol on its cover:
As an alternative, apply for a nonimmigrant visa class “B1” or “B2” from the U.S. State Department. ( U.S. Department of State – Visitor Visas ) U.S. Customs and Border Protection may exercise discretion at the ports of entry for cases in which VWP applicants are traveling for medical or other emergency reasons. A VWP national arriving in the United States with a non-compliant passport, for other than emergency travel reasons, may be detained for further processing and/or denied admission.