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Border & Immigration

Abbott lifts border restrictions on one part of border but says slowdowns will continue elsewhere

Veronica G. Cardenas / Texas Public Radio
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Gov. Greg Abbott announced a security agreement Wednesday with the governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo León that the two leaders say will return trade to normal operations after unprecedented stoppages and slowdowns at international bridges.

But the agreement will only affect Nuevo León, which shares the smallest segment of the border —about 14 kilometers — with Texas. It is home to the Colombia Solidarity Bridge, which is part of the Laredo customs district, the busiest in the county. But billions in two-way trade also cross through the ports that connect Texas with the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Coahuila.

Abbott was joined by Nuevo León Governor Samuel García to announce the agreement, which compels law enforcement in Nuevo León to increase inspections of vehicles before they arrive at the border.

Last week, Abbott ordered Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to begin enhanced inspections of commercial vehicles coming into Texas in response to the lifting next month of Title 42, a pandemic-era rule used to quickly expel migrants.

“Gov. Garcia has begun and will continue enhanced border security measures on the Nuevo León side of the border, both at ports of entry and alongside the Rio Grande River to prevent illegal immigration from Nuevo León into Texas.” Abbott said. “The increase in border security in the Nuevo León side will continue going forward.”

The enhanced inspections have led to wait times at international crossings that have reportedly exceeded 12 hours. It led Mexican truckers to block ports of entry in Tamaulipas and Chihuahua, which are not included in the agreement.

Teclo Garcia, the City of Laredo’s Economic Development Director, said as of Wednesday morning the blockades were ongoing at the Pharr port of entry. He called Wednesday’s agreement a good start but said the Colombia Solidarity Bridge does a fraction of what Laredo’s World Trade Bridge, which borders Tamaulipas, does daily.

“It’s maybe five times as much,” Garcia said. “Colombia is doing 1,000 or 1,500 trucks a day. World Trade is doing 9,000 trucks. And that’s just going one-way, northbound.”

Abbott said his office has been contacted by the governors from the other three Mexican states but doubled down on the increased inspections, saying blame should be placed on President Biden.

“The ultimate way to end the clogged border is for President Biden to do his job and to secure the border,” Abbott said. “You need to call your member of Congress and insist that they hold the Biden administration accountable.”

He also said Texans frustrated with the trade slowdown should contact Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to urge him to collaborate with Texas to end the “influx of cartel activity into Texas.”

Abbott said about 25% of commercial trucks inspected so far have been flagged as being unsafe. But he deferred questions about if contraband was found in those trucks to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw was at the press conference and didn’t address the question.

Abbott has faced mounting backlash from business groups for the work stoppage. Abbott said those same groups have been “shouting for the past 15 months” for Biden not to relax border restrictions.

“The people in Texas who may have suffered some hardship because it took a few extra hours to get something across the port, those are the very same Texans who agree overwhelmingly that we as a state and we as a people have suffered substantially from the open-border policies of the Biden administration,” said Abbott.
Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.