PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday he believed that due to coronavirus fears, President Donald Trump would announce as early as Friday that the Southwest border between the United States and Mexico would be closed to travelers and non-essential traffic, but not cargo, which flows through various ports along the border and brings essential goods into the country.
In a virtual town hall broadcast by Nexstar Media on Thursday from the KXAN studio in Austin, Abbott said he expected such an announcement would be fashioned similar to what Trump said earlier this week regarding northern border crossers from Canada into the United States when he banned non-essential crossing but did not restrict commerce and trade.
He “probably would articulate similar standards and that is doing their best to close the border for purposes of traffic of people who could be bringing COVID-19, but still allow commercial traffic to continue,” Abbott said in response to a question asked by Border Report on the hour-long feed that was broadcast statewide to discuss all aspects of COVID-19.
On Friday morning, President Donald Trump said the U.S. and Mexico will sharply curtail cross-border travel to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. The limits on travel will apply only to recreational and tourist travel. Trade will not be affected.
Keeping trans-border commerce moving through Texas is especially important for the regional economy, as well as supplying goods for the nation, economic experts say.
The U.S. agricultural sector brings in $1 trillion in annual economic activity — the majority of which passes through the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, one of the busiest ports in the nation for the import and export of agriculture. Over 50,000 commercial vehicles cross at this port every month; that’s over $1.2 million in revenue each month, according to bridge reports.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes the Pharr bridge told Border Report earlier this week that he doesn’t believe the bridges will be shut down: “I don’t believe that’s a reasonable thing to do at this point in time and I don’t believe it’s going to happen. He (Trump) said non-essential travel, so trade, important tourism, getting home and visiting their relatives. I think that is essential travel. I think trade is essential. Commerce that will continue across our borders unless something really extraordinary were to occur. But nobody sees that and I don’t foresee that in the future either.”
Trade is essential commerce that will continue across our borders unless something extraordinary were to occur.”U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas
Gonzalez was interviewed by Border Report in his downtown McAllen office on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon he declared he was self-isolating because he had been in close contact with another U.S. House member who has tested positive for coronavirus.
“Texas relies on the trade and agricultural sectors,” U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat whose district includes Brownsville and several international bridges, said recently.
In March 2019, the Laredo ports of entry — a sprawling system in South Texas comprised of four vehicular international bridges, one international rail bridge and one airport — surpassed the Los Angeles ports as having the most incoming value of goods into the United States. One international bridge in Laredo, is the No. 1 port for commercial truck traffic in the nation. That month, the Port of Laredo’s overall trade value was $20.09 billion. The Port of Los Angeles’ was $19.66 billion, according to Forbes.com.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.
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