Texas Gov Gets Very Own Blockade By Pissed Off Mexican Truckers, Good Job Well Done
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a number of measures that are absolutely vital to keep his name in the news with the primary coming up, and also ostensibly to protect Texas from Joe Biden's allegedly open borders. In addition to a stunt that would involve busing and flying asylum seekers to to dump them in Washington DC so Biden can have them (ha! ha!), Abbott ordered Texas state police to start performing "safety inspections" on every single commercial truck entering the US from Mexico.
When he announced the harsher "safety" inspections, Abbott said he knew they would "dramatically slow" cross-border traffic, but by golly it was worth it to keep Texas "safe." This week, it turns out that Abbott was more right than he knew: The inspections have led to hours-long delays for trucks entering Texas, and have sparked blockades of official border crossings by Mexican truckers angry at Abbott's policy.
The Texas Tribune reports that at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge near McAllen, Texas — normally one of the busiest ports of entry — no commercial vehicles crossed the border at all Monday or Tuesday because Mexican truckers had blocked both north and southbound lanes of the the highway on the Mexico side, in protest of Abbott's inspection order.
Crossings have also slowed to a fraction of normal in El Paso and at other ports of entry, and the New York Times reports that delays of up to 14 hours have led some truck drivers to skip Texas altogether, and to take the longer drive to cross the border in New Mexico or Arizona.
No big deal, it's only around $12 million a day in produce alone that's being held up. If the slowdowns continue, that's certain to lead to higher prices and possible shortages in grocery stores across the US, which of course will be blamed on Joe Biden and Democrats regardless of the fact that Abbott caused them.
Mind you, Abbott's enhanced inspections come after the trucks have already made it through the regular border inspections done by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Under US law, searches for narcotics or undocumented immigrants at the border are entirely a matter of federal responsibility. After the trucks are screened by CBP, they're perfectly legal to travel on into the US. On a typical day, one trucker told the Texas Tribune, the process of getting through the El Paso port of entry only takes about a half hour. Tuesday, he said, the traffic backups and extra inspections delayed him six hours on his trip to pick up office supplies in El Paso, bound for Juárez.
Texas's Department of Public Safety (DPS) does have the authority to check commercial trucks for compliance with safety laws. Normally, such safety checks are performed randomly on a few of the thousands of trucks crossing into Texas daily. But Abbott ordered that all trucks be inspected, to save Texans from that Biden policy that hasn't gone into effect yet. In his press release announcing the crackdown, Abbott insisted he would "use any and all lawful powers to curtail the flow of drugs, human traffickers, illegal immigrants, weapons, and other contraband into Texas."
Which, again, ain't his job.
As of yet, the escalated inspections don't seem to have netted any huge caches of drugs or disrupted any cartel human trafficking operations, the Tribune reports; for that matter, it's not even clear what exactly the long, slow DPS inspections are even looking at. (They're looking at staying in the governor's good graces.)
The Tribune notes that the normal CBP screening process is anything but lax, with agents performing detailed, even invasive searches of commercial vehicles, to the degree that the ACLU complains that the ports of entry are effectively "a Constitution-free zone," according to former CBP commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, who headed the agency from 2014 to 2017.
“The number of K-9 [dogs] they have to look for drugs, the X-ray machines, they got really good at this — you’ll see them be able to tap the sides of cars, panels of vehicles and locate whether there’s a false panel or something’s been concealed,” Kerlikowske added.
There's little reason to think that CBP really need's Texas DPS to help with any of that, but of course, if Abbott can create some chaos at the border, he can scream about "chaos at the border" and blame Joe Biden without much chance of suffering electoral consequences. After all, any fool knows that Republicans are all about enforcing the laws, so any chaos can't be their fault.
Texas truckers and businesses, however, are starting to hurt because of Abbott's policy, and they don't seem to have any trouble seeing who's fucking around with their profits, as the New York Times reports:
“This has national ramifications,” said John D. Esparza, the chief executive of the Texas Trucking Association. “This is trade going to Ford Motor Company. This is trade going to Minnesota. It’s not just about the city of Laredo trying to get stuff to their local H-E-B,” he said, referring to the Texas grocery chain.
The association endorsed Mr. Abbott for re-election in February, and Mr. Esparza said he immediately got in touch with the governor’s office after the order to express his concerns. “I haven’t had a response, quite frankly,” he said.
Mexico is the state’s largest trading partner, with more than $100 billion in imports in 2019, according to a report from the Texas Department of Transportation. At one of the busiest crossings, in Laredo, 16,000 trucks ordinarily pass through on a given day, Mr. Esparza said.
CBP has noticed too, and says that in just the first week, Abbott's inspections have resulted in a 60 percent drop in commercial traffic across the Texas-Mexico border. In a written statement, CBP said,
The longer than average wait times – and the subsequent supply chain disruptions – are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the order of the Governor of Texas.
As the Texas Tribune also points out, it's not just Mexican truckers who are being harmed by those "unnecessary" inspections, since most Mexican truckers make several runs a day across the border, bringing Mexican goods and produce to US border cities, where American trucks and drivers haul the loads out to the rest of Texas and beyond.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican first elected to that office in 2014, also had harsh criticism for what Abbott is doing to Texas bidniss, saying that Abbott should “cease his truck inspection project,” and that Abbott's “inspection program is turning a crisis into a catastrophe.” In an open letter to Abbott, Miller called the inspections "political theater" and warned that it could result in "untold losses" for businesses across the state.
“Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration,” Miller said in his letter. “It is stopping food from getting to grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks — many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies. … The people of Texas deserve better!”
Miller is among the first Republicans to call for Abbott to knock this the hell off, noting that CBP agents already "conduct extensive inspections of commercial vehicles" and that the state should use law enforcement resources where illegal border crossings actually take place, "not to create a crisis where they do not," which we'd just point out is still CBP's job, not Texas DPS's.
Mind you, Miller's criticism isn't merely a call for good government; he's also a rightwing ally of Donald Trump seeking a third term as Ag Commissioner, so he has plenty of reason to poke at Abbott. Isn't democracy a fun game?
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 monthly so we can keep this mommyblog rollin', rollin', rollin'.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.