El PASO – In business language, time is money. And business leaders and trade experts are nervous about the possibility that Texas Governor Gregg Abbott’s directive this week to step up commercial vehicle safety inspections at the border will take a lot of time and cost a lot of money.
Already along the border—including here in El Paso, which shares four international transits with Mexico—commercial truck lines were unusually slow Friday, with wait times averaging three hours or more. While federal officials are in charge of border crossings, the Texas Department of Public Safety does some inspections there.
“There will be chaos,” said Norma Jean Payne, president of DFW’s Transportation Club, an organization whose members represent more than 50 North Texas trucking, supply and logistics companies. “We’ve had a lot of problems with our supply chain in the past year and a half, two years – I don’t think anything that will delay or cause more problems is a wise decision right now. There has to be a better way to handle this.”
On Wednesday, Abbott said the plan to increase the number of government inspections is in response to the Biden administration’s decision to end the pandemic-era Title 42 health scheme, which allows for the rapid deportation of migrants crossing the border. During escalating security checks, government workers could theoretically discover more than the thousands of immigrants crossing the border each day, with many hoping to seek refuge in the United States.
But cautious business leaders, trade experts, and border politicians, including conservatives who support the Republican governor, say federal officials routinely check commercial vehicles as they cross the border. Additional inspections along highways by Texas officials can add hours to commercial trips.
“I think there was good intentions in Governor Abbott’s actions and with all due respect, but we need to make sure it’s a process that doesn’t impact the supply chain,” said Ernesto Gaytán Jr., president of the Texas Trucking Association.
Gaytán explained that every loaded truck crossing from Mexico to the US has already passed four security filters in Texas: one by Customs and Border Protection; one by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Texas Department of Transportation; another by DPS; and another about 30 miles from the border at checkpoints managed by the CBP and Border Patrol.
Checks at these security points add at least four hours spent by drivers getting the cargo to its destination. The delays will increase the costs of transporting goods for both time lost and fuel used, which will eventually be absorbed by Texas consumers, he said.
“We oppose any state-level action that results in an inspection process that multiplies the inspections currently performed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” said Britton Mullen, president of the National Border Trade Alliance, in a statement from Washington, DC. Centre.
“While border states like Texas have an important role to play in ensuring truck safety and code compliance, the state should work in partnership with the CBP and not engage in a new inspection scheme that will slow the movement of freight and only worsen the country’s supply chain crisis and further upward pressure on consumer prices. forming.
There is much at stake, even for consumers.
Mexico is Texas’ #1 trading partner. Texas and Mexico share a 1,254-mile border that is connected by more than 27 international transit points. The two economies are in many ways integrated into a single economy. There was more than $661 billion in trade between the United States and Mexico in 2021, according to U.S. Census data.
Texas is the state where most of the freight from Mexico to the USA passes.
incoming data Federal Bureau of Transportation It shows that 70% of the cargo trucks entering the USA do this via Texas.
“Time is money, and long lines will make Texas less competitive as a state and less competitive for the United States as a country,” said Raymond Robertson, director of the Bush School of Public Service and Mosbacher Institute of Public Service at Texas A&M University.
In 2021, 3 million truckloads of cargo entered from Texas. Of these, about 2 million came from Laredo alone, worth about $243 billion. Interstate 35 connects with major Mexican trade routes running northeast to San Antonio and then northeast to Dallas-Fort Worth.
More inspections and longer lines “would hurt us economically,” said conservative Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. “Longer lines mean less trade. Supply chains are affected as well as goods and services. Time is cash. Border delays mean consumers are waiting, which could affect inflation.”
“You have to weigh the economy with border security, and that’s a governor’s question,” Saenz said. He said that the governor did not consult him, but “I’m sure the governor is weighing these issues”.
Many business leaders seemed reluctant to openly criticize Abbott’s plan, emphasizing their support of border security while worried about expedited inspections.
“We welcome order at the border,” said Cecilia Levine Ochoa, owner and president of MFI International, a textile company that is the industry leader among Mexico’s maquiladoras.
He explained that irregular migration has disrupted the flow of trade. That’s why I welcome working with as many officials as possible to ensure order is maintained at the border.”
But business leaders worry that slowdowns at the border will only exacerbate other threats to trade. Violence and organized crime are already big problems in the Mexican border states.
Levin said that one of the first steps in expanding trade relations and improving security with Mexico is for politicians to stop using the border as an important issue for addressing political issues.
But that’s exactly what some believe Abbott is trying to do.
Tony Payán, director of the United States and Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, described the latest measures announced by Abbott as nothing more than an “election circus.”
“This is nothing more than the governor underestimating his political base this election year,” Payán said. “It is impossible to randomly check trucks to see where migrants are hiding in cargo transport; It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it’s part of the political circus that immigration has become.”
Abbott has already pledged to help build a border wall and has directed billions of dollars in spending on security issues such as the deployment of the Texas National Guard and state troops along the border.
Tom Fullerton, a professor in the University of Texas El Paso Department of Economics and Finance, called Abbott’s expedited inspection announcement a “discharged political trick”, warning that long queues and more calls at the border will only keep Mexican customers away, especially Mexican customers. warned. As Holy Week approaches and Mexicans head to the USA to shop.
“A large number of formerly loyal customers from Mexico have become accustomed to not visiting Texas during the pandemic travel restrictions on non-essential traffic,” Fullerton said. Said. “Some of these customers started returning to Texas after restrictions were lifted last November. Longer lines to support sending Latin American asylum seekers out of state will further deter international customers from returning to the Texas institutions that greet them.”
In Laredo, Gerald “Gerry” Schwebel, vice president and longtime conservative at IBC Bank, expressed his frustration at federal immigration policies that fail to deal with mass immigration. He thinks Abbott is not helping the problem.
“Why can’t we fix it? Immigration is a federal responsibility and it shouldn’t hinder or affect the legitimate flow of commerce and people into our country,” he said. “Why are you blaming this on us as border communities? I have a problem with anything that blocks the legitimate flow of goods and people across the border.”
There’s more business potential between Texas and Mexico, he says, with economic development leaders and corporate executives pressing for “re-anchoring” or companies heading to Asia to return to North America, including Mexico and the border.
“Because of COVID, close to the coast, smart coast, we have an unprecedented opportunity to get a lot of shore back here, and the US-Mexico border that makes us an attractive place to bring back production,” said Emma Schwartz, head of the Medical Center. From the America Foundation in El Paso, a nonprofit. “Anything that causes problems for the free back and forth flow of trade will certainly hinder all the work we’re trying to do to grow production and the supply chain in the US and along the Mexican border.”
Along the US-Mexico border, New Mexico business leaders are seeing an opening.
“We can’t help but look at this as an opportunity for New Mexico,” said Jerry Pacheco, president of the Industrial Frontier Association in Santa Teresa, NM, “I don’t understand why Texas is shooting itself in the foot.”
Mexican border correspondent Alfredo Corchado reported from El Paso. Al Dia team writer Imelda García reports from Dallas.