Texas reaches migration deal to ease traffic at border bridge

The enhanced inspections are still in place and causing delays at other ports along the border

Several dozen commercial trucks wait to cross the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge in Pharr, Texas, Wednesday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered enhanced inspections at the border.  (Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)
Several dozen commercial trucks wait to cross the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge in Pharr, Texas, Wednesday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered enhanced inspections at the border. (Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)
Posted April 14, 2022 at 1:27pm

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott struck a deal with a local Mexican official Wednesday to ease trade into Laredo, Texas, after outcry from Biden administration officials and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar about the state’s increased border inspections in Cuellar’s hometown.

Under the agreement, unveiled Wednesday evening, Gov. Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda of the Mexican state of Nuevo León agreed to implement “enhanced border security enforcement measures” on the Mexican side of the border to reduce the number of migrants crossing and to combat drug trafficking.

Nuevo León, located in northeast Mexico, shares a port of entry with Laredo over an international bridge.

In exchange, Abbott and Garcia will “work cooperatively to restore the border-crossing inspections process to allow crossings at a faster pace,” the memorandum says.

The agreement aims to ease the flow of commercial traffic into Texas after an April 6 directive from Abbott that ordered the state’s Department of Public Safety officers to ramp up inspections of commercial vehicles at the U.S.-Mexico border, which significantly increased wait times for commercial vehicles at ports of entry.

Abbott took the action in response to the Biden administration’s plans to lift pandemic-related asylum restrictions in May. It is part of Abbott’s push to address rising levels of irregular migration over the southwest border, called Operation Lone Star.

The enhanced inspections are still in place at other ports along the border. But according to Abbott’s office, other Mexican local officials along the border “have been in contact with the Office of the Governor and the Texas Secretary of State about signing similar memorandums.”

The Wednesday agreement follows fierce blowback from government officials, including Cuellar, a moderate Democrat whose district includes Laredo. Cuellar is also vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security panel.

In a letter to Abbott released earlier Wednesday, Cuellar warned that the increased vehicle checks have done little to curb migration while significantly disrupting the supply chain.

Cuellar pointed to information from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the state officials’ border inspections forced commercial wait times at ports of entry up to more than five hours. The delays have caused a 35 percent decrease in traffic at the port of entry at Pharr, Texas, and a more than 60 percent decrease at the international bridge in Laredo, according to CBP.

“Your duplicative mechanical inspections have been costly to the local, state, and national economies,” Cuellar wrote. “None of the violations from these inspections involve the smuggling of drugs or people.”

Cuellar, who faces a more progressive primary challenger in a runoff next month, has supported funding for technology and infrastructure at ports of entry while opposing the former administration’s call to build a border wall.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also slammed the heightened inspections. In a statement Wednesday, Psaki said the inspections “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.”