Border wait times for commercial trucks at El Paso ports of entry have increased after Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered enhanced state inspections, triggering a domino effect of chain disruptions manufacturing supply chain that could soon affect American factories, consumers and the Texas economy.
Late last week, the Texas Department of Public Safety began inspecting nearly every commercial vehicle that crossed the US border after passing through federal customs. The second round of inspections on April 11 generated a bottleneck and truckers began reporting wait times between four and 12 hours at entry points to the region.
Business leaders say wait times are hampering the just-in-time delivery of auto parts to US assembly plants and delaying the shipment of consumer goods to US stores.
A DPS spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in El Paso declined to comment on the enhanced DPS inspections.
Miriam Kotkowski, president of Tecma Transportation Services, manages a fleet of 80 commercial vehicles that transport goods between Mexico makeup and American stores and factories. The company is a branch of the El Paso-based Tecma group of companies, a manufacturing services provider that operates more than 35 factories in Juárez and employs approximately 9,000 people.
She said the extra inspections were creating a “huge” disruption.
“It’s inhumane to keep (drivers) 12 hours in line without access to toilets or food,” she said. “What can I say? It’s hurting the economy. It’s hurting Texas’ image.”
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Abrupt changes in policy at the US-Mexico border can quickly shake up the supply chain, end to end.
On April 6, Abbott issued a two-paragraph order to DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw “to conduct enhanced security inspections of vehicles as they pass through international ports of entry into Texas. These inspections should begin immediately to help ensure that Texans are not endangered by dangerous vehicles and their dangerous drivers.”
The order was one of several actions Abbott said he would take in response to the Biden administration’s April 1 decision to lift a pandemic-era policy known as Title 42. policy, issued and now rescinded by the Centers for Disease Control effective May 23, requires border agencies to quickly deport migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at border guard stations.
Abbott said the state’s additional inspections were one of many “aggressive actions by the state of Texas to secure the border following President Biden’s decision to end Title 42 evictions.”
Texas commerce has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic as trade has slowed.
Ports in the state handled nearly $88 billion in goods imported from Mexico in 2020, a sharp drop in a pandemic year from $104 billion in 2019, according to U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade statistics. Texas exported $89 billion worth of goods to Mexico in 2020, up from about $109 billion in 2019.
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El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said there has been “very little communication” between the governor’s office and the city and county regarding Abbott’s border policies.
“There was such a backup” at the border, Samaniego told reporters Monday at a Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition conference, where Abbott spoke. “I don’t think he understands the impact, and he makes a political decision without really understanding the impact.”
At the El Paso international ports of entry on Monday, CBP continued to process commercial vehicle traffic, screening tractor-trailers with X-ray technology and physical inspections as part of the U.S. government’s daily efforts to facilitate legitimate trade while intercepting contraband goods. A protest by frustrated truckers on the Mexican side at the port of Zaragoza temporarily halted traffic flows on Monday.
Commercial vehicle wait times at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso and the Ysleta-Zaragoza ports averaged 30 minutes to an hour before the start of enhanced state inspections.
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Kotkowski said she began redirecting her fleet to the Santa Teresa port of entry in New Mexico, where CBP expanded processing capabilities by opening trade lanes on Saturday and extending hours of operation on Monday. to accommodate traffic being diverted through New Mexico.
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She began sending runners with burritos and pizzas to feed tired truckers and providing “relay” drivers to relieve those who had been waiting for hours.
Jerry Pacheco, president of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association, said manufacturers are looking to New Mexico to ease trade stuck at the Texas border.
“With this situation, everyone knows we have to bend over backwards to accommodate commerce here and CBP is doing a really good job,” he said.
Lauren Villagran can be contacted at [email protected]
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Governor Greg Abbott’s order blocks commercial traffic at U.S.-Mexico border