Commercial vehicles trying to enter the United States to deliver goods from Mexico have been blocked for hours at Texas ports of entry following Governor Greg Abbott’s directive on Wednesday that state troopers increase inspections.
“It continues to disrupt our supply chain,” said Ermilo Richer, owner of a century-old logistics company in Laredo, who said his trucks take between four and five hours to cross Mexico. “It’s just something we don’t need right now.”
Abbott’s order is part of his effort to bolster security at the state’s southern border as the Biden administration in Washington, DC, plans to end a pandemic-era emergency health order which had allowed federal authorities to refuse migrants, even those seeking asylum. But officials in cities that depend on cross-border trade as economic engines fear the negative impacts increased vehicle inspections could have.
“We value border security, but it has to be weighed very carefully with the Texas economy,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said. “Any slowdown in trade on our bridges is a sure slowdown in our economy.”
On Friday afternoon, US Customs and Border Protection showed five-hour delays for entry into Laredo via the Laredo-Colombia International Solidarity Bridge. The Pharr port of entry experienced delays of more than four hours. El Paso’s two inland ports had three-hour delays.
Neither the Texas Department of Public Safety nor Abbott’s office responded to requests for comment.
On Abbott’s orders, DPS soldiers appear to be checking each of the thousands of utility vehicles passing through selected ports, local officials said. Trucks are stopped at DPS checkpoints after being inspected by CBP at the international port of entry. Abbott said he was targeting commercial vehicles because drug cartels use them to smuggle humans and drugs into Texas.
But DPS soldiers can only perform mechanical inspections, leading some, like U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, to question the effectiveness of Abbott’s orders. He said the DPS had told federal officials they intended to check every vehicle and that each inspection could take about 45 minutes.
“I don’t know what the rationale is,” Cuellar said. “If you’re worried about too many people coming in but you can’t inspect the cargo, that does nothing but make things uncomfortable and negatively impact trade.”
David Coronado, general manager of international bridges and economic development in El Paso, said between 2,500 and 3,000 trucks travel daily between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso. It is these businesses and the businesses they serve that will suffer from the delays.
“The major impact right now is on commerce and what it’s doing for the business community in El Paso and Juárez,” he said.
Mexico is Texas’ top trading partner, with total trade of $442 billion last year. This trade includes automotive parts that cross the border, machinery, electrical equipment, plastics and products.
As the United States continues to grapple with supply chain issues, border residents imbued with the importance of cross-border trade worry about the impact on the country’s broader economy.
In a statement on Friday, the Texas International Produce Association said commercial trucks crossing the Pharr Rio Grande International Bridges waited miles in long lines until early Friday morning, causing supply chain issues. Across the country.
Dante L. Galeazzi, CEO and president of TIPA, said his association is concerned that companies will leave Texas for neighboring Mexico and Arizona.
“The warehouses have inactive staff, without trucks to unload. Buyers from other parts of the country cannot understand why their product is not available. American trucking companies are losing money because they sit for days without loads to haul,” he said. “It destroys our business and the reputation of Texas.”
Cuellar said goods passing through Texas ports cross the country, including popular produce like avocados and tomatoes, as well as parts for Michigan’s auto industry.
“The supply chain that we have will affect wherever these companies may have their base,” he said. “This is going to add to the pandemic chain of supply issues we’ve had and will be man-made by the governor.”
U.S. Representative Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, joined Cuellar in denouncing Abbott’s decision as “impractical and damaging to our local economy.”
“Our state and our nation depend on a reliable and uninterrupted flow of goods to meet our nation’s needs. By implementing this action, Governor Abbott is exacerbating the supply chain crisis to continue his border crusade,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “By shutting down legitimate business, he is harming Texans – the people he was elected to serve. I urge the governor to immediately reverse this action and restore normal operations along the southern border.
Abbott, a Republican who is seeking a third term in November, is struggling to win support from Latinos in South Texas for his re-election bid. He railed against the Biden administration’s inaction on immigration to win some supporters in that region of the state and said he was increasing vehicle inspections in response to Biden’s planned cancellation. of Title 42, the pandemic-era ordinance that allowed officials to turn people away at the border.
But in doing so, he could discourage some of the voters he is trying to win over.
“I know Governor Abbott is very focused right now on Title 42 that Washington wants to cancel. I understand his frustration with Washington. But that’s another issue,” Richer said. “We absolutely need to make sure Washington figures out how to keep Title 42 open and control immigration, but we need Governor Abbott to make the right choices and not affect a community that has nothing to do with the immigration.”
Cuellar, the Democrat from Laredo, is one of the few members of his party who also supports maintaining the emergency health order. But he said Abbott’s response to the Biden administration will only hurt border communities that depend on cross-border trade.
He was already getting nervous calls from constituents and he encouraged them to bring their concerns to Abbott.
“The best thing to do is let the governor know that what he’s doing isn’t accomplishing what he wants,” he said. “I don’t know what it has to do with Title 42. It impacts trading, trading.”
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