EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, says the Texas Department of Public Safety plans to once again inspect all trucks coming from Mexico at a busy international bridge in the Rio Grande Valley, which he fears could lead to a bridge shutdown and economic losses like what occurred at another nearby bridge a year ago.
Cuellar told Border Report on Tuesday afternoon that “DPS will be conducting 100% enforcement inspections on commercial trucks on the Veterans (International) Bridge,” in the border city of Brownsville, Texas.
The inspections were to begin on Tuesday and run through Sunday, May 7, Cuellar said, based on information supplied to him by the Department of Homeland Security.
Cuellar says that DHS said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will not assist with DPS vehicle inspections. And this is, so far, the only international bridge where inspections will occur.
Border Report reached out to DPS and asked why the inspections were being conducted, but received no immediate response. This story will be updated if information is received.
Cuellar criticized the move because DPS officials cannot conduct inspections of truck hulls or inside the units, but can only perform inspections of mechanical items, such as brakes, windshields and trailer couplings. And that can lead to unnecessary delays and costs, he says.
“It’s all show because they cannot open the trucks. They can only check for brakes, they can only check for windshield wipers and stuff. They cannot open the trailers, the cargo trailers. So it’s all for show, but I guess they want to delay to send a message to the Mexicans,” Cuellar told Border Report.
He said he is worried about the economic implications and doesn’t want a repeat of the Pharr International Bridge closures last April — which lasted for three days and caused an economic loss of $1 billion — after DPS inspections at the bridge triggered Mexican truckers to block the bridge entrance heading north.
The Pharr International Bridge is the nation’s No. 1 port for fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico. But the Veterans International Bridge in Brownsville also is a popular route for truckers in Tamaulipas to use to cross into South Texas, as well, because it feeds into several highway interchanges that head North.
Formally called the Veteran’s International Bridge at Los Tomates, it is owned and operated by Cameron County. It is called the Puente Internacional Ignacio Zaragoza by Mexicans and leads from the border city of Matamoros to Brownsville, and is one of three international bridges in Brownsville.
Last week, thousands of migrants, mostly Venezuelans began streaming into Brownsville from Matamoros.
The last time DPS announced it was conducting full-scale commercial truck inspections was when the State of Texas was preparing for the Biden administration to end Title 42 in April 2022. That hasn’t happened yet, however, the public health policy — which has prevented migrants from seeking asylum to stop the spread of COVID-19 across U.S. borders — is now slated to sunset on May 11.
And it appears the state is once again preparing to slow down trucks coming north, to slow a surge of migrants, which Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said his forces will repel back.
“The last time that the state did that, all they did was cost businesses and the state and the rest of the country, you know, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cuellar said.
Abbott then signed agreements with Mexican governors from the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, who agreed to conduct extensive inspections with Mexican forces south of the border, which stopped the bridge slowdowns and ended the inspections, at least for the time being.
Last December, DPS conducted enhanced security inspections in El Paso. For days, that created mile-long lines of trucks that arrived via the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico. In a statement then, DPS said the inspections help “deter cartel smuggling activity along our southern while increasing the safety of our roadways.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com