US-Mexico border gridlock to ease as Texas ending extra checks

Republican Governor Greg Abbott had ordered extra inspections of trucks, leading to 30-hour wait times and protests.

Texas will stop carrying out extra inspections of trucks arriving at the United States’s southern border with Mexico, Governor Greg Abbott has said, after the US state reached an agreement with neighbouring Mexican states.

The agreement calls for the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas to increase security efforts focusing on illegal border crossings and drug smuggling, Abbott and Tamaulipas Governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca said on Friday during a joint news conference.

Last week, Abbott ordered state authorities to conduct “enhanced safety inspections” of vehicles as they cross from Mexico into Texas in order to uncover smuggling of people and contraband.

The move snarled traffic, with some truckers reporting wait times of more than 30 hours to cross the border into the US, and prompted protests that shut down several commercial crossings in Texas and New Mexico.

Abbott, a Republican running for re-election in November, has been in a battle with the Biden administration over US immigration policy – and the inspections began after the Department of Homeland Security announced that a pandemic-era restriction would be lifted on May 23.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is running for re-election in November [File: Eric Gay/AP Photo]

That policy, known as Title 42, has effectively sealed the border to most asylum seekers, allowing US authorities to rapidly turn people away without giving them a chance to apply for protection in the United States.

Since the order was invoked in March 2020 under then-President Donald Trump, more than 1.7 million Title 42 expulsions have been carried out.

Abbott had called the enhanced truck inspections a “zero tolerance policy for unsafe vehicles” smuggling refugees and migrants and said Texas would take several steps in response to the end of the asylum restrictions.

He also has chartered buses to carry refugees and migrants from Texas to Washington, DC, to send a message to Biden, with the third bus arriving on Friday, according to the governor’s office and news reports.

But pressure was building on the governor to end the inspections of trucks from Mexico as gridlock worsened and frustrations mounted.

The American Trucking Association called the measures “wholly flawed, redundant and adding considerable weight on an already strained supply chain” while Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a fellow Republican, said the additional checks would “quickly lead to $2.00 lemons, $5.00 avocados and worse”.

Mexican truck drivers
Mexican truck drivers block the Pharr–Reynosa International Bridge connecting the city of Reynosa to McAllen, Texas, April 11, 2022 [Reuters]

On Wednesday, the White House also slammed the inspections, saying they were unnecessary and had disrupted food and automobile supply chains, driving up prices when inflation is already soaring in the US.

The US-Mexico border is crucial to the American economy and more of it is in Texas — roughly 1,931km (1,200 miles) — than any other state. The US last year imported $390.7bn worth of goods from Mexico, second only to China.

Meanwhile, a delegation of US government officials will travel to Panama next week to discuss migration, as the Biden administration seeks to dissuade people from heading towards the border when Title 42 ends.

The delegation will include Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the State Department said on Friday.

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