Texas Governor Greg Abbott walked back his tighter inspection measures for truckers at a key border crossing after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday blamed him for driving up already runaway prices caused by record-high inflation.
Abbott, 64, had ordered trucks to undergo ‘enhanced safety inspections’ on April 6 to curb human trafficking and the flow of drugs across the Texas-Mexico border.
The move was part of ‘unprecedented actions’ he vowed in response to the Biden administration announcement that next month it will end Title 42, a public health law that has limited asylum-seekers in the name of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Psaki, 43, said at a press conference on Wednesday that Abbott’s inspections were ‘unnecessary’ and driving up the 8.5 percent inflation rate – the highest it’s been in 40 years.
‘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,’ she said.
‘These actions are impacting people’s jobs and the livelihoods of hardworking families in Texas and across the country. It’s not a political statement. That’s a statement of fact.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, 43, slammed Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s truck inspections at the Mexico border, calling the hours-long lines that are spoiling ‘millions’ of dollars of produce as ‘unnecessary’
On Wednesday evening, Abbott announced that he would stop the inspections at the Laredo-Colombia bridge after meeting with Nuevo Leon Governor Samuel García. He said others would follow with more ‘collaboration’ with Mexico to increase inspections on the Mexican side
One entry point, at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, saw wait times increase from 63 minutes to 320 minutes and traffic through the port drop 35 percent as 2,000 to 3,000 trucks waited back-to-back at the bridge, according to the Washington Post.
The extended delays were spoiling millions of dollars worth of produce, Psaki said, as some truckers have waited in line for up to 30 hours.
Psaki called Abbott’s inspections a ‘political stunt’ that is causing ‘significant delays which are resulting in a drop of commercial traffic up to 60 to 70 percent in some ports.’
On Wednesday evening, Abbott clarified that he will ease his inspection mandate at just one bridge but will not rescind his order at other crossings until he gets more assurances of security.
The two-term Republican said he was only ending enhanced inspections at the Laredo-Colombia bridge because Nuevo Leon Governor Samuel García, whose Mexican state is across the border from Laredo, agreed to tighter security measures on the Mexico side.
‘Clogged bridges can end only through the type of collaboration that we are demonstrating today between Texas and Nuevo León,’ Abbott said Wednesday night.
Trucks line up back-to-back at the Santa Teresa Port on Tuesday as wait time up to 30 hours
But that would not bring relief to idling truckers stacked up elsewhere along Texas’ 1,200-mile border, including in cities where backups have lasted for more than 12 hours and frustrated truckers have blocked bridges in protest.
That includes the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which has been effectively closed since Monday by trucker protests.
Abbott said he hoped officials in the three other Mexican states that border Texas would follow Nuevo Leon and also promise more security.
‘I understand the concerns that businesses have trying to move product across the border,’ Abbott said in Laredo, where he was joined by García. ‘But I also know well the frustration of my fellow Texans and my fellow Americans caused by the Biden administration not securing our border.’
Pressure on Abbott has come even from allies of the two-term governor.
The Texas Trucking Association, which has endorsed Abbott for reelection, said that the current situation ‘cannot be sustained’ as the delays postponed deliveries and threatened to empty store shelves.
The Mexican governors of Coahuila and Tamaulipas, which both border Texas, also sent Abbott a letter calling the inspections overzealous and said they are ‘creating havoc and economic pain’ on both sides of the border.
Mexico’s federal government has said Abbott’s order is causing ‘serious damage’ to trade, and that cross-border traffic had plummeted to a third of normal levels.
Critics question how the inspections are meeting Abbott’s objective, while business owners and experts complain of financial losses and warn US grocery shoppers could notice shortages as soon as this week.
Frustration is also spreading within members of Abbott’s own party: Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican, called the inspections a ‘catastrophic policy’ that is forcing some trucks to reroute hundreds of miles to Arizona.
‘I do describe it as a crisis, because this is not the normal way of doing business,’ said Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, whose county includes the bridge in Pharr. ‘You’re talking about billions of dollars. When you stop that process, I mean, there are many, many, many, many people that are affected.’
The shutdowns and slowdowns have set off some of widest backlash to date of Abbott’s multibillion-dollar border operation, which the two-term governor has made the cornerstone of his administration. Texas has thousands of state troopers and National Guard members on the border and has converted prisons into jails for migrants arrested on state trespassing charges.
Truckers line up in four rows at the Zaragoza International Bridge on Tuesday. Some port traffic has dropped up to 60 to 70 percent, according to Psaki
Truckers are begging to get the line moving as ‘millions’ of dollars of produce are perishing
The disruptions at some of the world’s busiest international trade ports could pose economic and political threats to Abbott, who is seeking a third term in November. Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the former presidential candidate who is running against Abbott, said during a stop in Pharr on Tuesday that the inspections were doing nothing to halt the flow of migrants and were worsening supply chain issues.
An estimated 3,000 trucks cross the Pharr bridge on a normal day, according to the National Freight Transportation Chamber. The bridge is the largest land port for produce entering the US.
Mexico supplies about two-thirds of the produce sold in Texas.
The additional inspections are conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which said that as of Monday, it had inspected more than 3,400 commercial vehicles and placed more than 800 ‘out of service’ for violations that included defective brakes, tires and lighting. It made no mention of whether the inspections turned up migrants or drugs.
Jerry Pacheco, executive director of the International Business Accelerator and president of the Border Industrial Association, said the protests were costing businesses millions of dollars a day.
‘It’s going to affect all of us, all of us in the United States. Your car parts are going to be delivered late, your computer — if you ordered a Dell or HP tablet, those are going to be disrupted.’
Ed Anderson, a professor at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, compared the disruptions to those caused by February’s trucker blockade in Canada that forced auto plants on both sides of the border to shut down or scale back production.
Anderson said consumers would likely begin noticing the effects before the end of this week.
‘Either prices are going to spike or shelves are going to be low,’ he said.