PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — The Pharr International Bridge leading to and from Reynosa, Mexico, has been closed after truckers in Mexico blocked access to the bridge on Monday to protest truck inspections imposed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, officials told Border Report.
The South Texas bridge normally opens at 6 a.m. but did not open at all Monday. It is the No. 1 bridge for imports of produce in the nation and officials say its closure will have a ripple effect on the nation’s supply of fruits and vegetables.
Videos posted on social media from Mexico show the blockade being carried by truckers on the Mexican side of the border. They are protesting Gov. Gregg Abbott’s announcement Thursday last that all commercial traffic entering Texas from Mexico will be subject to inspection by state officials after undergoing a federal inspection at the port of entry.
The city of Pharr issued a state statement about 3 p.m. Monday saying that the Pharr International Bridge was “ready and open for business.” However, Pharr police officers remained at the foot of the bridge blocking all southbound traffic at 4 p.m. Monday, and no commercial traffic was making its way north.
“We are aware of the situation in Mexico that is currently preventing the flow of commerce into the United States. We will continue to closely monitor these unfolding events and work with the proper authorities as necessary,” the statement from the City of Pharr read.
In a statement to Border Report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that commercial traffic at Pharr International Bridge is currently halted temporarily, in both directions.
The closure is “due to a protest occurring on the Reynosa side of the bridge and due to no southbound movement by U.S. carriers,” the CBP official said. “CBP defers further inquiry regarding the protests to Government of Mexico officials, U.S. carriers. Under established business resumption protocols, northbound commercial traffic is diverted to neighboring ports of entry in the interim.”
This has caused wait times of 10 to 20 hours at the Pharr International Bridge as officials with the Department of Public Safety conduct what Texas State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa calls “intensive inspections.”
“The bridge is shut down due to Gov. Abbott’s public safety inspections on trucks from Mexico,” Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, told Border Report on Monday.
Hinojosa, who was just reappointed vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Pharr usually processes 3,000 trucks per day, but since inspections went into effect on Thursday, only about 300 trucks a day have been able to cross from Mexico.
“The truckers from Mexico are upset because they don’t have food. They don’t have bathrooms to use. They’re running out of fuel and some of the produce is rotting. So they are pretty upset,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa and several senators who represent the border on Sunday sent a letter to Abbott urging he reconsider the mandatory inspections he announced Wednesday.
He told Border Report that he fears additional bridge closures could occur, such as in El Paso, and that could significantly hurt the state’s economy.
According to the Texas Center for Border Economic and Enterprise Development, in 2021 nearly $442 billion in trade flowed through Texas ports of entry.
Over 65% of all produce in the United States comes over the Pharr International Bridge, officials say.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez told Border Report on Monday that Gov. Abbott needed to reconsider his directive and find another way to ensure border security without upending trade with Mexico.
“These unintended consequences resulting from his actions are devastating to the supply chain here in Texas and the United States,” Cortez said. “It is having a huge economic impact to the supply chain.”
Cortez said he met with dozens of representatives from the trucking industry, maquiladora industry, business owners and local residents on Monday who were all complaining that business is down on the U.S. side due to the huge wait times on the international bridges.
“Something needs to be looked at and hopefully find a way to balance what the governor perceives is a danger to Texans and the needs of our international trade between the United States and Mexico,” Cortez said. “Because what he is doing today isn’t working.”
“What he is doing today isn’t working.”Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez.
Trucker David Martinez told Border Report he was able to come across from Reynosa around 1 p.m. on Sunday with a load of broccoli. He waited all night and morning for Texas Department of Public Safety officials to inspect his truck.
His truck was being inspected at noon Monday but his future was uncertain after that.
“We don’t know what will happen. They’re not telling us anything,” he said in Spanish as he waited with a group of other truckers from Mexico under a palm tree in the 90-degree heat.
Once he drops off his load, he usually refills the truck, often with meat, he said. But given the bridge closure he doubted his truck would be refilled. And he had no idea how he would return to his home in Reynosa, Mexico.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com