PHARR, Texas (Border Report) — South Texas border leaders and business owners on Tuesday openly criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for mandating commercial truck inspections that led to the closure of multiple international bridges on the border with Mexico for a second full day.
Truckers from Mexico on Monday began blocking the entrance to bridges in Pharr and El Paso in protest of the new truck inspections Abbott ordered last week in anticipation of the end of Title 42. This has resulted in truckers waiting up to 20 hours to cross international bridges.
This has threatened the national supply chain as a majority of produce, as well as automotive mechanical components from Mexico that cross through the Pharr bridge, several border leaders told Border Report.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo who represents parts of Hidalgo County, said the ripple effect of having no commercial trucks crossing through the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge for two whole days will be devastating not only to the local economy, the state but to the country’s entire supply chain of produce and other manufactured products.
“It’s a self-inflicted wound and the governor needs to rethink this. It’s going to add to the costs. It’s going to add to the inflation. It’s going to affect the consumer in a very negative way. I understand the frustration the governor has but this is the wrong solution to the problems we’re facing at the border,” Cuellar told Border Report on Tuesday in the rural town of La Grulla in Starr County.
Abbott announces the inspections on April 6 as part of sweeping new border security measures due to the end of Title 42.
“With the Biden administration ending Title 42 in May, Texas will be taking its own unprecedented actions this month to do what no state in America has ever done in the history of this country to better secure our state, and our nation,” Abbott said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke visited the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday and said Abbott has caused “crisis and chaos” on the border.
“Because of the crisis and the chaos that Greg Abbott has caused through his executive actions last week that mandate 100% inspections on all commercial vehicles coming into the U.S. through our ports of entry here in Texas. He has slowed down U.S./Mexico trade to a standstill,” said O’Rourke who is running for Abbott’s seat in November.
“This is the cost and consequences of meeting legitimate challenges that we have with the kind of political stunts that Greg Abbott is using right now in the state of Texas,” he said.
An economic domino effect is already being seen on the border that will soon affect the rest of the nation, border leaders warn. Not only food is being blocked from crossing from Mexico, forcing truckers to go thousands of miles around to other ports, such as San Diego and Nogales, Arizona, but mechanical components that are built in Mexico and assembled in the United States also cannot cross.
Leaders say that means assembly plants in San Antonio and in northern states soon might run out of product and could be forced to stop plant production.
The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, which represents the produce industry, has advised all of its members “to divert all shipments, when possible, to border crossings without these uncertain delays that are damaging the supply chains,” according to a letter sent this week by the organization’s president Lance Jungmeyer.
Joel Villarreal, mayor of Rio Grande City, says the international bridge connecting his city in Starr County to Camargo, Mexico, has seen an increase in commercial truckers this week due to the Pharr Bridge closure. But he worries that Mexican truckers in Camargo also could block access to the Starr Camargo International Bridge and close it down.
“You’re looking at impacting communities and millions of dollars,” Villarreal told Border Report on Tuesday. “Here in Rio Grande City, we’re looking at over $1 billion in trade of every conceivable commodity and service with destination anywhere U.S.A., and it’s having a negative impact economically and absolutely it’s concerning. And that goes for all of our border communities.”
Cuellar said many mechanical components are produced in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and transported across the Columbia International Bridge into Laredo. That bridge is also being targeted by truckers.
On Tuesday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials issued a statement also critical of Abbott’s state inspections, saying inspections are not necessary and duplicate what the federal government already does at all ports of entry.
Polo Chow owns a trucking company in the Rio Grande Valley and he accompanied O’Rourke on Tuesday morning to a cold-storage facility in Pharr where he asked repeatedly, “Why his drivers are being targeted by the governor?”
He said with diesel costing over $5 per gallon, trucks idling for hours “are really hurting us a lot economically, as well as physically and emotionally.
“If they’re going to have to wait 16 hours on the bridge with no food, no water, no restrooms then they have no choice,” Chow said. “These are inhumane conditions and they said ‘no more’ to this inhumane act.”
Chow said some truck trailers have been waiting in Mexico for three days to cross into Pharr. He said many carry automotive parts needed for plants in San Antonio. And he speculates that in three to five days that plants up North will significantly feel the pinch.
“They don’t have a large inventory to carry them through. They rely on a constant stream of product coming in,” Chow said.
Abbott has ordered every commercial truck to undergo a Level 1 inspection, which takes Department of Public Safety officials 45 minutes to an hour to complete.
However, Cuellar said that state officials may not enter inside truck holds and can only inspect engines, undercarriage, brakes and other mechanics of the vehicle. So if Abbott is trying to stymie drug smugglers and human traffickers, he says this is not the way.
“If you’re trying to stop their drugs or people, keep in mind they’ve already been inspected by the federal government, then I think there’s a better way we can work with the state,” Cuellar said. “But to add to the consumers caused by the delays to the supply chain that we’re having is a self-inflicted wound that the governor is doing to our economy.”