EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexican officials and border industry leaders say Texas truck inspections looking for drugs, migrants and mechanical faults have cost exporters $1.1 billion in the past three weeks, and they’re calling on them to end.
The figure includes lost tolls, as fewer trucks are crossing into the U.S., overtime wages for drivers, merchandise storage fees and deliveries that arrive late to distribution centers. The inspections began on Sept. 18.
The truck checks are part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, which as of Friday had resulted in 34,800 criminal arrests and the seizure of 431 million lethal doses of fentanyl since March 2021, according to the governor’s office.
Operation Lone Star is the state’s response to a historic surge in illegal migration that has coincided with President Joe Biden taking office in early 2021. Texas has also bused to American “sanctuary cities” more than 50,000 migrants released from federal immigration custody onto Texas communities, Abbott’s office said.
But the tug-of-war between Texas and the White House has brought economic collateral damage to U.S.-run manufacturing plants in Mexico.
“The merchandise is taking too long to cross due to the inspections ordered by the Texas governor. We have 16,000 trucks which have been delayed, production at factories has decreased, work stoppages and furloughs have started because (factory managers) don’t know when this will be over,” said Thor Salayandia, vice president of the Mexican Chamber of Industry.
The State of Chihuahua on Friday summarized the economic effects of the truck checks and pointed out Texas, too, is being economically affected. That is because, as of Thursday, most commercial trucks headed to the United States from Juarez, Mexico, were using a nearby New Mexico port of entry due to long waits at Far West Texas’ two remaining truck crossings: Ysleta (El Paso) and Tornillo, Texas.
The Chihuahua Bridges Trust Fund reported 1,474 trucks crossed from Juarez to Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on Thursday, compared to 708 at Ysleta and 229 in Tornillo. Unlike Texas, New Mexico is not routing trucks that clear U.S. Customs and Border Protection lots to a secondary inspection area.
The agency said 1,127 trucks could not cross the border with their merchandise due to long wait times and finite inspection hours, costing their companies an average of $65,000 per day. Aggregate losses since Sept. 18 are now up to $1.153 billion, the Trust Fund reported.
Salayandia said the losses are likely closer to $2 billion when taking into account trucks and merchandise coming from plants in the interior of Mexico.
“This is a problem we must address. We can have (truck) checks, but not like this. The traffic must flow,” Salayandia said.
He said some maquiladoras in Juarez are already having work stoppages and furloughs, while managers at many other manufacturing plants are worried about having “heavy layoffs” if the crisis continues.
The Chihuahua bridges agency usually does not get involved in politics. However, on Friday, it urged Mexico City to do something about the unregulated migration crisis that led to the truck checks.
“The (economic) losses originate with the migrant crisis caused by the arrival to the state of Chihuahua of thousands of people on the move. That is why the state government urges the (Mexican) federal government to take the appropriate measures to tend to this crisis,” the Trust Fund said in a statement.
Salayandia said the commercial truck delays could not have come at a worse time.
Ongoing limited labor strikes at Detroit automakers have affected production at Juarez plants that manufacture car parts. The overvaluation of the Mexican peso is making it more expensive for American parent corporations to operate south of the border. And there is some political uncertainty already due to next year’s Mexican presidential and federal elections, he said.