September 22, 2023

Texas resumes truck inspections along Mexico border amid migrant surge

Cross-border truck drivers are facing hourslong wait times at two Texas ports of entry as an influx of migrants and renewed state-run truck inspections are disrupting trade flows between Mexico and the U.S.

The inspections overseen by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) resumed Wednesday at the Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge in El Paso and the Camino Real Bridge in Eagle Pass. DPS initiated similar inspections in El Paso last December.

The checkpoints launched by the Texas DPS are in addition to commercial truck inspections conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, further slowing truck crossings because each truck has to stop for an additional examination.

DPS officials said the renewed inspections were aimed at stopping cartels from smuggling drugs across the border.

“We hope that frequent enhanced commercial vehicle safety inspections will help deter cartel smuggling activity along our southern border while increasing the safety of our roadways,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement to the El Paso Times

DPS officials declined to comment on how long the state-run inspections would continue.

The increased inspections at the Ysleta-Zaragoza and Camino Real bridges are increasing wait times at border crossings already being disrupted by a large increase of migrants arriving at the Texas-Mexico border in recent days.

CBP agents that would normally help process commercial cargo trucks are being shifted to immigration duties to handle the inflow of migrants.

Cargo truck wait times at the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge are currently over 100 minutes in the general commercial lanes and 80 minutes for vehicles permitted for the Free and Secure Trade program lanes.

On Monday, CBP suspended cargo truck operations at the Bridge of Americas border crossing in El Paso, forcing all commercial traffic to use alternative bridges, such as Ysleta-Zaragoza, the Marcelino Serna port of entry or the Santa Teresa port of entry in New Mexico. It’s unclear when cargo operations will resume at the Bridge of the Americas.

On Wednesday, CBP closed Bridge I in Eagle Pass due to a surge of migrants arriving in the area. Eagle Pass’s Bridge II, also known as the Camino Real Bridge, remains open with one lane for cargo trucks.

The DPS inspections are also causing long wait times at the Camino Real Bridge, said Armando Taboada, assistant director of field operations at CBP’s Laredo Field Office.

Cargo truck wait times at the Camino Real Bridge are currently over 180 minutes, according to the CBP website.

“DPS is slowing down the ability to exit the import commercial cargo lot and creating long crossing border wait times,” Taboada said in an email to the trade community Thursday. “The Port of Del Rio is the closest port of entry in proximity to Eagle Pass and able to handle diverted commercial truck shipments.”

CBP also closed the rail bridge in Eagle Pass on Wednesday in order to redirect personnel to assist Border Patrol with taking migrants into custody. 

“No railroad traffic will be processed until further notice,” Taboada said.

Union Pacific said Thursday that freight service through South Texas is delayed because of the closure in Eagle Pass.

“Union Pacific’s other gateways cannot handle the extra traffic and we are notifying our customers of an embargo at Eagle Pass, effective immediately,” Union Pacific said in a news release. “This will help us better manage your shipments during this dynamic and rapidly developing situation.”

Watch: What the Truck?!? discusses entry-level driver training issues; freight market drops and fuel rises.

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