JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez business leaders are joining their counterparts in Southern New Mexico in pushing for an expanded role of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry to handle the region’s burgeoning commercial truck traffic.

“The recent bottlenecks at El Paso’s ports of entry bared how vulnerable Texas crossings are to politics. But in times of crisis also come opportunities. Many businesses turned to Santa Teresa as an option for faster border crossings,” said Thor Salayandia, president of the Juarez Chamber of Industry and Manufacturing.

Recent Texas Department of Public Safety enhanced border inspections snarled traffic at El Paso’s Ysleta Port of Entry and at the Bridge of the Americas land port. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the secondary checks to pressure U.S. and Mexican authorities to step up efforts against illegal immigration.

The Biden administration was unmoved but all four Mexican governors whose states border Texas promptly signed agreements with Abbott vowing to fight drug and human smuggling.

Salayandia said Juarez’s 330 U.S.-run automotive, electronics and medical parts factories cannot be held hostage to politics again, so the chamber wants to ensure Santa Teresa can be a safety valve in the future.

Chamber officials on Wednesday plan to meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials as well as the head of the New Mexico Border Authority to lobby for physical improvements that will allow Santa Teresa to handle more trucks.

The New Mexico-based Border Industrial Association long has been lobbying for such improvements and is waiting for the federal government to carry out a feasibility study to expand the port. More than 800,000 trucks per year cross El Paso and New Mexico ports of entry per year, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office, with 72 percent crossing through Ysleta.

Salayandia wants Santa Teresa to double its current capacity so it can handle up to 40 percent of the region’s truck traffic.

“We need options. Right now, only maquilas that are on that side (of the border) use it, but if we improve it, if we give it better infrastructure, more industry would use Santa Teresa,” he said. “It has the necessary land to grow and there is good disposition from the government of New Mexico. As for us, we have begun lobbying with the Mexican government to make this happen.”

Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association, said the trucking crisis caused by Texas’ secondary cargo inspections proved Santa Teresa can be a “strategic relief route” for the region’s multibillion-dollar manufacturing community.

“And that’s in addition to our organic growth, I mean, we’re breaking truck crossing records every single year. Our advantage is we have very fast crossing times, under 30 minutes. Even during the blockade we still had faster crossing times than El Paso,” Pacheco said. “We appreciate the Juarez trade community recognizing that and we welcome their support in expanding our port of entry.”

Plans were underway to seek an expansion of Santa Teresa before this month’s trucking crisis, with federal money recently earmarked for a feasibility study that would be the cornerstone of an expansion.

The port last year made some on-the-fly improvements to accommodate the passing-through of giant blades (160- to 175-foot-long) used at wind farms in the Midwest. That money came from public-private partnerships