Abbott's plan for more vehicle inspections at the border causing supply chain issues

Last week Governor Greg Abbott announced two additional measures Texas will take to help secure the southern border. Biden and DHS have decided to let Title 42 expire in May and that decision is predicted to have dire consequences for border security. Abbott said Texas will begin to bus illegal migrants to Washington, D.C. and commercial truck inspections at ports of entry on the Mexico border will increase.

These two measures are good for the politics of Abbott’s re-election bid. He will face Robert Francis O’Rourke in November. Thanks to Biden’s border crisis, the issue of border security and illegal immigration is a top concern for voters in Texas. Even O’Rourke admits that Biden has not done enough to secure the border. He said border security is not enough of a priority for Biden. O’Rourke is not wrong. But, in the case of these two new actions, there is a real possibility that they will backfire.

Bussing illegal migrants to D.C. is a dramatic gesture that most people can understand. If Team Biden wants to ignore the chaos at the border, send the results of that chaos to them and to lawmakers who have the responsibility of reforming immigration laws. It may not turn out to be much of a solution, though, as the illegal migrants must consent to being bussed to D.C. and have the proper paperwork from DHS to do so. Abbott failed to make that clear when he made his announcement.

Enforcing the laws already on the books would be a good first step, including fine-tuning the asylum process. Migrants have been instructed to claim asylum at the border by activists yet most of their claims do not qualify for asylum. Most migrants are coming for jobs and that is not a reason for asylum. Perhaps if busloads of migrants show up in lawmakers’ communities away from border states they might begin to understand the stress local communities feel in handling the influx.

The other measure announced by Abbott, ramped up efforts to inspect commercial trucks coming in from Mexico to counter human trafficking and the flow of illegal drugs, is the source of some unintended consequences. The increased inspections are slowing down the truck traffic crossing over from Mexico and affecting commerce. The supply chain is being slowed down and businesses are feeling the pinch. While state troopers increase inspections of commercial vehicles, truck traffic is backed up for hours at Texas ports of entry.

“This continues to add disruption to our supply chain,” said Ermilo Richer, the owner of a 100-year-old logistics company in Laredo who said his trucks were taking between four and five hours to cross from Mexico. “It’s just something we don’t need right now.”

“We value border security but it’s got to be weighed very carefully with the Texas economy,” said Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz. “Any slowdown in commerce at our bridges is a definite slowdown in our economy.”

On Friday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed five-hour delays for entry into Laredo through the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge. The port of entry in Pharr had delays of more than four hours. El Paso’s two inland ports had delays of three hours.

Boat blockades are being used to turn back migrants attempting to cross the Rio Grande River and that is intended to help the overcrowding at the border in various communities. Border Patrol personnel and local law enforcement personnel are overwhelmed and resources from the federal government have not been forthcoming.

Every commercial vehicle is subject to inspection at a port of entry. Abbott wants every single one inspected. This amounts to thousands of vehicles, thus the hours long delays. The backed up traffic affects timely delivery of goods from Mexico, the single largest trading partner for Texas. There was $442 billion in total trade last year. Whether it is automobile parts or produce, a slowed down supply chain is not good news. This is an unintended consequence of Abbott’s action.

DPS troopers can conduct only mechanical inspections, leading some, like U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, to question the efficacy of Abbott’s orders. He said DPS had told federal officials they intended to check every vehicle and each inspection could take about 45 minutes.

“I don’t know what the rationale is,” Cuellar said. “If you’re worried about too many people coming in but you can’t inspect the cargo, that doesn’t accomplish anything except make things uncomfortable and have a negative impact on commerce.”

David Coronado, managing director for international bridges and economic development in El Paso, said between 2,500 and 3,000 trucks flow between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso every day. It’s those businesses and the companies they’re servicing who will suffer because of the delays.

“The major impact right now is on trade and what it’s doing to the business community in El Paso and Juárez,” he said.

Business leaders are worried that further problems in the supply chain, already an issue due to the pandemic, will push businesses to go to other border states like Arizona or to Mexico. Businesses have warehouse workers sitting idle as they wait for trucks to arrive and that can’t continue for long before businesses have to make some decisions on how to deal with the loss of productivity. And the trucking companies are losing money as their drivers are slowed by the long waits to cross the border.

Abbott’s diligent about border security in Texas. His ideas come from that diligence but in this case, the unintended consequences may prove to be too costly. We’ll see how this plays out.

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