Increased Inspections at Border Draw Protest

Border checkpoint
Border Patrol checkpoint | Image by Bob Daemmrich / The Texas Tribune

On the morning of April 12, a long line of trucks waited on both sides of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge along the border between Texas and Mexico. Officials from the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency explained that the checkpoint had been closed to all traffic for several hours because of an ongoing protest staged by truck drivers on the Mexico side.

Discontent at the border started during the afternoon hours of April 10 when agents from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) started flagging down trucks that had already cleared customs at the border. Governor Greg Abbott ordered this secondary inspection after a White House announcement about upcoming changes to CBP vigilance and immigration oversight along the land borders with Canada and Mexico.

The Title 42 measure enacted by the administration of former President Donald Trump will come to an end on May 23. The policy allows CBP to turn both lawful and unlawful migrants away without allowing them to file for asylum as a preventative measure against COVID-19.

Governor Abbott has asserted that ending Title 42 restrictions will increase crimes like human smuggling, drug trafficking, and unlawful border crossings. To combat the predicted increase of illegal activity at the border, he implemented secondary truck inspections.

CBP’s blockade completely shut down the Rio Grande Valley checkpoint, and cross-border traffic between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso was severely delayed on Tuesday afternoon.

The blockade has prompted some importers in Texas and other states to either cancel their orders or demand discounts from suppliers to compensate for the delays. In the case of fresh fruits and vegetables, not all of the trucks are refrigerated, resulting in spoiled produce orders.

Directors of the Border Trade Alliance and the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas have written letters of complaint to Governor Abbott. The complaints claim that DPS agents, who are mostly members of the Texas Highway Patrol, have not been adequately trained to conduct inspections; moreover, the trade associations consider the DPS inspections to be an unnecessary duplication of the CBP agents’ work.

Out of more than 2,680 inspections conducted by DPS agents since Sunday, 646 had returned road safety issues such as inoperable lights, deficient braking, and worn tires; however, there were no reports of incidents related to human trafficking, unlawful immigration, or drug smuggling. Because each inspection takes about an hour and DPS agents seem to be flagging almost all trucks, the practice has caused major delays.

On April 13, Governor Abbott and Nuevo León Governor Samuel Alejandro announced an agreement to ease commercial traffic at the Laredo-Colombia bridge. The bridge is one of at least four ports of entry where international trade has been held up.

The deal states that Texas DPS troopers will stop inspecting every commercial truck on the bridge as long as Nuevo León still maintains checkpoints on its side of the 9-mile border between it and Texas. Inspections will continue for trucks coming from the other three Mexican states that border the Lone Star State.

“Now listen, I understand the concerns that businesses have trying to move products across the border. But I also know well the frustration of my fellow Texans and my fellow Americans caused by the Biden Administration not securing our border,” Abbott said. “The ultimate way to end the clogged border is for President Biden to do his job and to secure the border.”

Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott in the November election, was critical of Abbott’s border decision.

“Greg Abbott’s chaos at the border is crushing businesses, raising prices for Texans, causing supply chain delays, and hurting the economy of our state and this country,” said O’Rourke. “While the people of Texas, led by border communities, forced him to back down in Laredo, we will keep the pressure on to end his job-killing, inflation-spiking chaos at every other Texas port of entry.”

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