Three of four Mexican states with border crossings that were clogged over the past week because of extra truck inspections ordered by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have struck deals allowing trade to resume its normal flow.
In a joint news conference Thursday evening, Abbott and Chihuahua state Gov. Maria Eugenia “Maru” Campos announced their agreement after a meeting in Austin, Texas. Chihuahua has border crossings at Ciudad Juárez-El Paso, a major source of backups and trucker protests earlier this week.
Hours later, the Texas Tribune reported, Abbott’s office announced an agreement with Coahuila Gov. Miguel Angel Riquelme Solis. Abbott earlier in the week signed an agreement with the Nueva Leon governor.
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‘Best border security plan’
As of midday Friday, only crossings with Tamaulipas state at McAllen and Brownsville remained subject to the added inspections, which have drawn criticism from business groups, trucking associations, the White House and Texas’ Republican agriculture commissioner.
Abbott said Campos presented “the best border security plan that I have seen from any governor of Mexico.”
Campos said Chihuahua would collaborate with the Texas Department of Public Safety, and Abbott said state troopers could now return to random inspections at the Texas border.
Abbott emphasized Chihuahua officials will work to reduce illegal immigration from Mexico into Texas.
“Chihuahua is doing more than just talking about this,” Abbott said. “They have an organized game plan to step up and address illegal immigration from Chihuahua into Texas.”
Campos shared with Abbott an outline of her border security measures, which includes moving the headquarters of the state public security agency to Juárez.
‘This problem is a political issue’
Cross-border commerce plunged last week after Abbott ordered increased state inspections of commercial vehicles after those vehicles had cleared US customs. El Paso’s Ysleta-Zaragoza bridge saw a 50% drop in commercial traffic, while commerce at the Bridge of the Americas fell by nearly a third, according to US Customs and Border Protection. Wait times skyrocketed.
“We were hoping that our governor would fix this situation yesterday,” said Manuel Sotelo, vice president for the northern region of CANACAR, Mexico’s national chamber for cargo transport, and president of a truckers association in Juárez.
Sotelo challenged the idea that the stepped-up state inspections are about border security.
“It’s impossible to think that we would attempt to cross a person inside a truck,” he said. “This problem is a political issue. It’s not about border security. The trailers that are filled with migrants in Texas don’t cross the border.”
Abbott’s order cited illegal immigration and said the inspections also were to spot unsafe trucks. In the first six days after the order, Texas troopers issued more than 12,000 citations to truckers.
Beto O’Rourke: Texans aren’t buying it
Abbott’s opponent in November, Beth O’Rourkesaid the governor’s deals with Mexican governors were merely a solution to problems he created.
“Abbott is the arsonist who torched the Texas economy by shutting down trade with Mexico to score cheap political points,” O’Rourke said. “He’s responsible for the inflation it’s caused and the businesses he’s hurt. Now he wants credit for putting out the fire by announcing these ridiculous ‘security agreements.’ Texans aren’t buying it and we’ll never forget the chaos Abbott has caused to our economy and our border communities.”
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser described the cross-border trade slowdown as a “devastating blow” to the Texas economy.
“The efficient flow of trade on the US-Mexico border isn’t only critical to Texas but to the entire United States,” Leeser said in a statement Thursday. “Any delays will continue to burden the supply chain issues our country is already facing , and affect our state and nation economically in a negative manner.”
Critics universally said the Texas inspections were redundant.
Many trucking companies already jump through numerous hoops for special certifications required to move cargo quickly across the border.
Thousands of US and Mexico carriers have a US federal certification known as CTPAT, or Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. It’s a coveted certification that requires end-to-end supply chain security measures that begin with risk assessments and conclude with a bevy of operational requirements including driver background checks, guards at loading docks, security cameras and GPS tracking of cargo trucks among other measures.
“When an entity joins CTPAT, an agreement is made to work with (Customs and Border Patrol) to protect the supply chain, identify security gaps and implement specific security measures and best practices,” according to CBP, which had deemed the Texas inspections unnecessary . “Applicants must address a broad range of security topics and present security profiles that list action plans to align security throughout the supply chain.”
Another is the Free and Secure Tradeor FAST program, a trusted shipper program that allows expedited processing for commercial carriers who have completed background checks and fulfill certain eligibility requirements, according to CBP.
There are about 18,000 FAST-enrolled trucks on the southern border, according to CBP.
El Paso Times reporter Vic Kolenc contributed to this report. Lauren Villagran can be reached at [email protected]
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism