DEL RIO, Texas—Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is receiving pressure from the White House and Mexico to end his safety inspections on commercial vehicles entering the United States from Mexico.
“Governor Abbott’s unnecessary and redundant inspections of trucks transiting ports of entry between Texas and Mexico are causing significant disruptions to the food and automobile supply chains, delaying manufacturing, impacting jobs, and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on April 13.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) started conducting “enhanced commercial vehicle safety inspections” on vehicles traveling from Mexico on April 6, at Abbott’s behest.
The inspections are being conducted on state roads just beyond several ports of entry, which has caused long delays to commercial traffic and caused miles-long lines of trucks into Mexico.
Truck drivers in Mexico started protesting on the Reynosa side of the Pharr international bridge on April 11, blocking the port of entry entirely. The drivers say they’ll keep protesting and block other bridges if they’re not heard, according to a Twitter report by Mexico’s Imagen TV.
The Pharr port of entry has seen a 35 percent drop in commercial traffic, while a bridge in Laredo has seen a 60 percent drop, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is responsible for border clearance into the United States. CBP issued its own statement on April 12 calling the inspections “unnecessary.”
Texas DPS officers have conducted inspections at seven ports of entry—Brownsville, Los Indios, Pharr, Laredo, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, and El Paso.
Abbott’s office didn’t provide a response to the White House statement by press time.
Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on April 12, saying it “rejects the state measure, which significantly impairs the flow of trade between our two countries.”
Government officials in Mexico are talking with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Abbott’s office, the statement said.
“As an inevitable consequence of this provision, Mexican and U.S. traders are losing competitiveness and considerable income.”
Abbott directed DPS to start conducting the inspections on April 6 in a letter to the agency’s Director Col. Steven McCraw.
“As you have explained, the cartels that smuggle illicit contraband and people across our southern border do not care about the condition of the vehicles they send into Texas any more than they care who overdoses from the deadly fentanyl on board,” Abbott wrote.
As of April 12, DPS had inspected 4,133 commercial vehicles, of which 973 were placed out of service for “serious safety violations to include defective brakes, defective tires, and defective lighting,” according to Lt. Christopher Olivarez, DPS spokesman for south Texas.
“Additionally, 84 commercial vehicle drivers were placed out of service. The total number of violations detected thus far is 13,651.”
The president and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association John Esparza said his phone has been ringing off the hook since April 7.
“We don’t disagree with what the governor is doing. What we’re trying to do is help him reach the goals with our partners over at the Department of Public Safety without impeding commerce. And that can be a challenge,” Esparza said.
Esparza said he’s been in touch with the governor’s office since the inspections started and is seeking further clarification on the ultimate goal.