Frustration grows over truck backlogs at Texas-Mexico border – Star Tribune
AUSTIN, Texas — One of the busiest trade ports on the U.S.-Mexico border remained closed Tuesday as frustration and traffic snarls mounted over new orders by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requiring extra inspections of commercial trucks as part of the Republican’s sprawling border security operation.
Since Monday, Mexican truckers have blocked the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge in protest after Abbott last week directed state troopers to stop and inspect trucks coming into Texas. Unusually long backups — some lasting 12 hours or longer — have stacked up elsewhere along Texas’ roughly 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) border.
Not even a week into the inspections, the Mexican government said Tuesday that Abbott’s order was causing “serious damage” to trade, and that cross-border traffic had plummeted to a third of normal levels.
The gridlock is the fallout of an initiative that Abbott says is needed to curb human trafficking and the flow of drugs. But critics question how the inspections are meeting that objective, while business owners and experts complain of financial losses and warn U.S. grocery shoppers could notice shortages as soon as this week.
Frustration is also spreading within members of Abbott’s own party: Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican, called the inspections a “catastrophic policy” that is forcing some trucks to reroute hundreds of miles to Arizona.
“I do describe it as a crisis, because this is not the normal way of doing business,” said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, whose county includes the bridge in Pharr. “You’re talking about billions of dollars. When you stop that process, I mean, there are many, many, many, many people that are affected.”
The shutdowns and slowdowns have set off some of widest backlash to date of Abbott’s multibillion-dollar border operation, which the two-term governor has made the cornerstone of his administration. Texas already has thousands of state troopers and National Guard members on the border and has converted prisons into jails for migrants arrested on state trespassing charges.
Abbott warned last week that inspections would “dramatically slow” border traffic, but he hasn’t addressed the backups or port shutdowns since then. His office didn’t reply to a message seeking comment left Tuesday.
The disruptions at some of the world’s busiest international trade ports could pose economic and political threats to Abbott, who is seeking a third term in November. Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the former presidential candidate who is running against Abbott for governor, said during a stop in Pharr on Tuesday that the inspections were doing nothing to halt the flow of migrants and were worsening supply chain issues.
He was joined by Joe Arevalo, owner of Keystone Cold, a cold-storage warehouse on the border. He said that although Texas state troopers have always inspected some trucks crossing the border “they’ve never, ever, ever held up a complete system or a complete supply chain.”
An estimated 3,000 trucks cross the Pharr bridge on a normal day, according to the National Freight Transportation Chamber. The Pharr bridge is the largest land port for produce, such as leafy green vegetables, entering the U.S.
Mexico supplies about two-thirds of the produce sold in Texas.
“We’re living through a nightmare, and we’re already suffering through a very delicate supply chain from the pandemic and to try to regrow …….
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