The White House is pressuring Texas Governor Greg Abbott to lift additional inspections of incoming commercial trucks from Mexico as supply chain disruption at the border threatens to spin out of control.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki warned in a statement Wednesday that cross-border delays caused by inspections – which Abbott said last week he was putting in place at major crossings to curb the illegal immigration – “causing major disruptions to food and automobile supplies. chains, delaying manufacturing, affecting jobs and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country.
“The continuous flow of trade and legitimate travel and [U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s] his ability to do his job must not be hindered,” she added.
The Biden administration confirmed on Tuesday that wait times exceeded five hours at some crossings, with truck traffic dropping by up to 60 percent. “The longer than average wait times – and the resulting supply chain disruptions – are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections conducted by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) by order of the Governor of Texas,” according to CBP.
The agency’s office found a “significant increase” in commercial wait times at ports of entry since DPS inspections began on Friday. Transit on the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge connecting Reynosa, Mexico to Pharr, Texas normally has an average wait time of 63 minutes, but has peaked at 320 minutes, and there has been a drop in 35% commercial traffic, CBP said Tuesday.
Truckers take on Abbott
The problem is compounded by blockades put up by truckers to protest Abbott’s measures. The protests began Monday on the Mexican side of the Ysleta/Zaragoza Bridge in El Paso and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
“Currently, protests in Mexico are blocking access to [Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge]supposedly during these Texas DPS inspections, reduced commercial traffic by 100%,” according to CBP.
A CBP official said Mexican and U.S. carriers wanted to meet with DPS officials and Governor Abbott to express their concerns. “Commercial traffic will not be able to enter the United States and Mexico while the protest is ongoing,” he said.
One of CBP’s primary functions is to inspect and clear commercial traffic at the border. Last year, the agency processed more than 4.9 million commercial trucks at 13 ports of entry, with an estimated import value of more than $281 billion.
Abbott, a Republican, acknowledged that the additional inspections would slow US imports from Mexico. However, “the cartels use vehicles, many of them dangerous commercial trucks, to smuggle immigrants, deadly fentanyl and other illegal goods into Texas and onto our roads.”
Industry frustration rises
The Texas Trucking Association (TXTA), meanwhile, argues that the economic costs of Abbott’s policy far outweigh the benefits.
“Motor carriers that are consistently subjected to multiple levels of border control have a higher level of compliance and increase the compliance average for the entire state of Texas,” the president and chief executive of Texas said Wednesday. TXTA executive, John Esparza, in a letter to Abbott.
“Therefore, it is a sad reality that these new and additional levels of border control efforts have little impact on the state’s highest motor carrier safety risks, while adding significant congestion to border trade. Supply chain challenges caused by COVID and other global issues are now compounded by the Texas-Federal standoff.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small business truckers, is “reviewing” the situation, an OOIDA official told FreightWaves.
Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said the delays are causing a shortage of diesel fuel for trucks that supply refrigerated trailers filled with highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables. “This means that even when a truck is able to cross the border, the product could be significantly damaged,” he said.
“If DPS inspections stopped today, it would take more than a week for the supply chain to return to normal. Unfortunately, the loss of inventory, freshness, and sales will never be recovered, and these losses are direct economic loss for Texas businesses and lost sales for their customers in North America.
Jungmeyer advised his members to divert shipments to border crossings that were not experiencing significant delays. However, the window on such hijackings could be closing as trucker protests threaten to spread.
In addition to crossings at Ysleta/Zaragoza and Pharr/Reynosa, a blockade has since been created on the Mexican side of the Progreso International Bridge, according to a trucker quoted by Texas Public Radio.
“Drivers doing this say they blocked some bridges to sway officials, but their peers are just going through the open bridges to the United States,” Santos Alvarado, a farm produce trucker, said Tuesday.
“So they’re going to start closing all the bridges now. They are angry because we did not support them all. They have already closed the Progreso bridge. They are going to close…Los Indios and Anzalduas today so no one can get out.
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