Major delays at Texas border because of governor’s actions
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has greatly increased truck safety inspections at the major Texas border crossings from Mexico to the United States causing truckers to wait as long as 32 hours to get into the United States with their loaded trucks. As a result, there were efforts by incoming truckers to block the border on Monday morning to shine light on the situation.
Dante Galeazzi, president and CEO of the Texas International Produce Association, shared a photo of the blockade and told The Produce News that the situation was greatly impacting the movement of fresh produce to the United States from Mexico just as supplies were ramping up to handle the Easter pull.
He explained that truck safety inspections are typically done at random, but on Wednesday, April 6, Abbott announced that as many as 100 percent of trucks would be inspected beginning the following day. Galeazzi said there are seven bridges over the Rio Grande that allow for the shipments of produce into the U.S., and over the weekend the ports of entry with the most traffic — bridges at Pharr and Laredo — were experiencing the longest delays. At each of those bridges, 100 percent of trucks were being inspected for safety violations, creating lines many miles long to get into the United States.
As of Monday morning, he said trucks had been waiting as long as 32 hours to get across and noted that Monday is usually one of the heaviest border crossings along with Friday and Saturday.
While Abbot used the cover of safety inspections to slow movement across the border, he has publicly attacked both Mexico and the Biden Administration for allowing the flow of migrants and contraband into the United States. Many, including politicians and border trade advocates, have noted that drawing attention to the migrant issues is the governor’s not-so-hidden agenda. He has also received publicity in recent weeks for threatening to bus migrants to Washington, DC, and then doing so as the Biden Administration announced plans to repeal Title 42 of the public health policy, which will basically once again allow migrants to seek asylum in the United States. Title 42, signed by former President Donald Trump in 2020, halted that decades-old practice.
Galeazzi would not tread into those waters, but he said the increased truck inspections have nothing to do with actually stemming the flow of migrants or contraband into the U.S. He reasoned that cargo trucks are subject to inspection by many different federal and state agencies at the border, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is basically the state’s highway patrol. It is DPS conducting the 45-minute long, truck safety inspections that are causing the long delays.
The TIPA executive said while contraband is occasionally found on a cargo truck as are a few migrants from time to time, smuggling via these cargo trucks represents a minimal percentage of the total picture. “That is not how they come into the United States,” Galeazzi said.
In a letter to Abbott, TIPA noted that “Texas bridges are reporting variable DPS presence and inspections. Some bridges are experiencing 100 percent inspections, others have lower levels, and yet others have no inspections at all. We are seeking additional information as to why this is occurring.”
Galeazzi said it is the truck drivers, brokers and importers who are suffering the biggest consequences because of these inspections. Reportedly, Fov. Abbott’s office has not responded to numerous inquiries from concerned stakeholders across in the international trade community.
“We are sharing this issue because we need to get it in front of the governor,” Galeazzi said.
He asked others in the industry to apply pressure to Texas politicians and others to end this situation, which is adversely affecting the fresh produce industry and all trade. Of course, the delay is much more acute for a perishable product such as produce.
Galeazzi said some of the bridges are allowing entry without the inspections but that can change in a moment’s notice, and it is difficult, time-consuming and costly for a truck driver waiting in a current line to exit that line and travel to another bridge along the border without the certainty that it will be any better there.
In its letter to Abbott, TIPA wrote: “Border security is an important element of this region, but so is the trade that keeps millions of Texans employed. This is destroying our business and the reputation of Texas. TIPA urges your office to modify this action.”
“We agree that safety and security are paramount, which is why the inspections of commercial trucks by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are considered to be the best in the world,” said Fresh Produce Association of the Americas President Lance Jungmeyer. “Texas has some of the most secure commercial ports of entry anywhere along the U.S. border. Officers use sophisticated technology to see through the trailers and catch illicit cargo and prevent human smuggling.”
“For the sake of the many American families and especially those in Texas who are counting on healthful fresh fruits and vegetables for the Easter Holiday, and on behalf of Texas businesses who not only are employers but also keep the economy of the state going, we ask you to reconsider the state Department of Public Safety inspections of fresh produce trucks occurring in Texas ports of entry,” FPAA stated in a letter addressed to Abbott.