Monday, February 6

Election year politics behind border trucking crisis, analyst says


Texas governor taking Biden to task on immigration but hurting state, national economy in the process, experts opine

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – With two-thirds of the US trade with Mexico passing through Texas, no state stands to lose more from disruptions in binational commerce flow, experts say.

Yet Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is exacerbating supply chain issues by ordering stepped-up truck inspections at the Mexican border that delay produces getting to market and are idling Texas-based logistics, trucking and warehousing operations, they note.

“Close to 75-80 percent of all imported vegetables come from Mexico and about 50 percent of all imported fruit. […] Then you have transportation and sorting operations, so for every dollar in value of produce that comes through from Mexico, 13 cents stays” in Texas, said Luis A. Ribera, director of the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University.

Truckers on Friday began reporting delays of up to 12 hours to cross from Mexico to the United States in ports of entry from El Paso to Pharr, Texas. That coincided with the start of the Enhanced Border Inspection program by the Texas Department of Transportation. Mexican truckers responded by blocking commercial lanes in Pharr, El Paso and Santa Teresa, New Mexico. The obstruction continued through Tuesday evening.

These delays are already impacting producing prices and depriving US factories of imported parts used in the production of anything from cars to computers.

Luis A. Rivera

“It creates a lot of uncertainty. Even just with the perception of something happening, prices will react,” Ribera said. “The overall take is producers and brokers and a lot of industry in Texas and the US are suffering. Nobody wins with this situation. It will take time to figure out the exact economic impact. As of right now, this is a no-win situation for everyone.”

Abbott directed DPS to effect enhanced border inspections in response to the federal government announcing the end of the Title 42 order that allowed border agents to expel 1.7 million unauthorized migrants on public health grounds. DPS officials have set up shop immediately north of US Customs and Border Protection inspection areas and are checking trucks coming over from Mexico for concealed drugs, migrants or safety violations.

CBP on Tuesday called such secondary inspections “unnecessary” and one political science expert said they likely won’t make a dent in either drug trafficking or unauthorized migration but will hurt businesses that include some of his political supporters.

“Greg Abbott has made the argument that he is in disagreement with the Biden administration ending Title 42 […] He has responded in a way he thought was appropriate, but which essentially is creating an international crisis,” said Tony Payan, director of the Center for US-Mexico Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Greg Abbott has made the argument that he is in disagreement with the Biden administration ending Title 42 […] He has responded in a way he thought was appropriate, but which essentially is creating an international crisis.”

Tony Payan, director of the Center for US-Mexico Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy

The DPS inspections are “an open confrontation” with the Biden administration Abbott believes will bring attention to an immigration issue he’s pushing with his Republican base in an election year, Payan said.

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“Texas has been throwing millions of dollars for several years now at the border by mobilizing the National Guard and DPS and that investment of Texas taxpayers’ dollars has not paid off. Nothing makes me believe what the governor is doing today will make a difference on immigration or drug smuggling,” he said.

Payan said election polls show Abbott with a slight advantage over Democratic rival Beto O’Rourke heading into the November general election.

Border Report contacted Abbott’s office for comment but was referred to DPS. The state police agency had previously sent this reporter a statement saying it doesn’t discuss operational details.

Tony Payan

“It’s a manufactured crisis. The governor doesn’t want to talk to Joe Biden, he doesn’t want to talk to the federal government, he doesn’t want to negotiate. He’s in a confrontational mode,” Payan said.

But a third party has joined the fray, and that’s bringing uncertainty to the outcome. Mexican truckers in Reynosa and in Juarez have taken the law into their own hands and blocked access to US ports of entry until they get assurances they won’t be made to wait half a day to cross the border. Payan said the truckers likely have the backing of their companies, who are the ones enduring economic losses from delivery delays.

“The governor is creating bottlenecks and affecting the entire supply chain and binational trade. Companies are unhappy about that,” he said. The truckers and their employers are upping the ante to force a quick solution. “They’re saying, we’re going to close the ports of entry and maybe the governor will hear from his constituents how he’s hurting the state economy.”

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Payan said the conflict will drag out for at least a few days. “I don’t’ see any sign of political negotiation between the governor and the federal government. It’s eventually going to fizzle out as I don’t think the governor can maintain this very long. He’s going to be hurting the Texas economy,” he said.


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