Cancel OK

Trade groups criticize heightened Texas border crossing inspections

Mexican drivers protest inspection delays at the Pharr, TX-Reynosa border entry. They ended their protest April 13. (Photo courtesy FPAA)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to strengthen border protections and inspections in response to the Biden Administration’s plans to end pandemic emergency health orders that allowed federal officials to turn away migrants seeking asylum.

The Texas Border Truck Inspection Enforcement Action is one of the measures, which allows for state inspections after U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspections.

Among the consequences of this has been increased inspections of commercial vehicles, including trucks carrying fresh produce from Mexico to the U.S., and that is delaying deliveries during a time of excess supply chain disruptions.

Several trade groups have sent letters to Abbott to reconsider what these actions do to cross border trade and ultimately to consumers of these products.

Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas BB #:144354, wrote:

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.

Adding an additional Texas DPS inspection once trucks have crossed the border is causing serious delays with no commensurate increase in border safety.

Unfortunately, delays from DPS inspections mean that up to 80% of perishable fruits and vegetables have been unable to cross daily. This is causing losses of millions of dollars a day for employers and employees who have been idled.

Trucks are waiting over 24 hours to cross the border. Customers are unable to load product from their Texas suppliers. Transportation shortages are increasing as available trucks are stuck waiting in line to cross the border.

Food shortages will rise as we head into Easter. Trucks are running out of diesel fuel to run refrigerated units on the trailers, resulting in catastrophic damage to highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables. This means that even when a truck is able to cross the border eventually, the product could be damaged significantly.

If DPS inspections stopped today, it would take over a week for the supply chain to return to normal. Unfortunately, the loss of inventory, freshness, and sales will never be recovered, and these losses are a direct economic loss to Texas companies, and lost sales to their customers around North America.

Dante Galeazzi, CEO/president of Texas International Produce Association BB #:162361 wrote:

Last night, commercial trucks crossing the Pharr International Bridges were in a miles long line that took until nearly 2am this morning to clear the bridge. Today, the line is at a stand-still as trucks are crawling out of the import lot. Many carriers and brokers are reporting hours of non-movement.

Border security is an important element of this region, but so is the trade that keeps millions of Texans employed. According to a study from Texas A&M, fresh produce arriving from Mexico not only employs nearly 8,000 Texans but is also responsible for $850M in economic impact to the state. Further, our industry is in the midst of the ‘Easter Pull’ in which grocery stores are ordering products for the holiday promotion. The execution of this order has wreaked havoc up and down our supply chain and is likely to leave state store shelves with limited fresh produce supplies.

Warehouses have staff sitting idle, with no trucks to unload. Buyers in other parts of the country cannot understand why their product is not available. US trucking companies are losing money as they sit around for days with no loads to haul. I have even heard from a member that a trucking company is refusing to send trucks south of San Antonio out of concern there will be no cargo available. This is destroying our business and the reputation of Texas. I foresee companies making plans to move their business to New Mexico and Arizona.

TIPA urges your office to modify this action. We implore you to work with the Department of Homeland Security on a more effective process which meets the country’s need for security while balancing our dependency on efficient trade.

Border Trade Alliance president Britton Mullen said:

The Border Trade Alliance believes strongly that cross-border trade and travel efficiency should be balanced with security.

We oppose any state-level action that results in an inspection process that duplicates the inspections already performed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, whose work at the land border ports of entry is informed by highly attuned risk assessment models, intelligence gathering, and a commitment to the agency’s dual mission of enforcement and facilitation.

While border states like Texas have an important role to play in ensuring truck safety and code compliance, the state should be working in collaboration with CBP, not engaging in a new inspection scheme that will slow the movement of freight, which will only exacerbate the country’s supply chain crisis and put even more upward pressure on consumer prices.

The BTA urges the Governor’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security to work cooperatively to meet the country’s security and economic needs.

At the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition Spring Meeting in El Paso April 11, Abbott said, “Texans demand and deserve an aggressive, comprehensive strategy to secure our border—not President Biden’s lackluster leadership. As the federal government continues to roll back commonsense policies that once kept our communities safe, our local law enforcement has stepped up to protect Texans from dangerous criminals, deadly drugs, and illegal contraband flooding into the Lone Star State. Texas will always be a law-and-order state, and I thank our law enforcement officers who have answered the call to protect and serve their fellow Texans in the federal government’s absence in securing our border.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services