UPDATE: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott repealed the enhanced inspection measure on Friday evening after signing a security agreement with the governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The original story follows:
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a series of measures intended to fortify his state’s border with Mexico and target undocumented immigrants crossing into the United States. In addition to the more performative stunts Abbott is implementing, the Republican governor is directing the Texas Department of Public Safety “to conduct enhanced safety inspections of vehicles as they cross international ports of entry into Texas,” citing drug smuggling and migrant trafficking.
Though seemingly one of the more commonsense components of Abbott’s order, truckers, local business owners, and international commerce experts are raising concerns. The enhanced inspections, which bolster efforts already carried out by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), have brought traffic to a standstill in the name of stopping the illegal transportation of drugs and migrants. “We weren’t taken into consideration,” said Ernesto Gaytan, chair of the Texas Trucking Association (TXTA), telling Reuters that migrants rarely attempt to enter the U.S. on commercial trucks at ports of entry.
The TXTA has argued that the new stricter screening requirements are redundant. Trucks and cars already face “multiple layers of scrutiny at the border,” meaning that increased vetting is yielding little security benefit. What it is yielding is severe congestion and long delays at ports of entry.
“Unfortunately, this new initiative duplicates existing screening efforts and leads to significant congestion, delaying the products Americans rely on from our largest trading partner, Mexico,” reads a statement from the TXTA. Mexico’s National Chamber of Freight Transport reported that its member companies were losing millions of dollars each day due to delays. The Texas International Produce Association implored Abbott to modify his policy, with CEO Dante Galeazzi writing that “U.S. trucking companies are losing money as they sit around for days with no loads to haul.” Galeazzi reported hearing “that a trucking company is refusing to send trucks south of San Antonio out of concern there will be no cargo available.” Perishable goods run the risk of spoiling during long waits in the Texas heat.
Far from being a localized issue, the delays imposed by Abbott’s new inspection measures have also irked federal border officials, who warn about broader supply chain challenges. CBP described recent wait times “exceeding five hours and commercial traffic dropping by as much as 60 percent,” noting that its officials already “comprehensively” inspect and clear vehicles to enter the U.S. “The strength of the American economy relies heavily on the efficient flow of cross-border commerce,” said CBP.
Truckers have opted to voice their frustration with the excessive inspections in a variety of ways. The Tucson Sentinel reported that drivers have been traveling as far as 20 hours away to cross the border in Nogales, Arizona, rather than deal with long waits in Texas. As a result, wait times at the Nogales Mariposa Port of Entry had doubled as of Thursday. Mexican truck drivers blockaded the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge in protest, barring all southbound movements by U.S. drivers.
As of Thursday, Abbott had signed agreements with the governors of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila, relaxing the enhanced inspections taking place at their borders in exchange for the Mexican officials promising to do more to combat illegal immigration. Stringent inspections will continue at the border Texas shares with Tamaulipas.
Though congestion seems to be easing as a result of Abbott’s agreements, the governor was still willing to risk gridlock and disruptions to trade to implement a meddlesome border-securing measure. These disruptions have left a sour taste in the mouths of trade officials and truckers—even those, like the TXTA, who have supported Abbott up until this point.