Commercial traffic on the Texas-Mexico border has snarled after state troopers stepped up safety inspections of trucks under orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The initiative from Abbott, a Republican who is up for reelection this year, is part of a chain of measures called Operation Lone Star that are aimed at fighting migration north.
Mexico is Texas' No. 1 trading partner, and the two share a 1,254-mile border that's connected by more than 27 international crossing points.
The head of the Texas Independent Produce Association said the flow of produce across the border was taking 10 times longer than usual, stretching the usual wait of three hours to more than 30 as a result of Gov. Abbott's initiative. Truckers are being advised to take food and medicine with them when they head to the border, the Dallas Morning News reported.
"The tie-ups are incredibly worrisome, and truckers are reporting 36 hours in line," said Dante Galeazzi, the CEO and president of the Texas International Produce Association in nearby Mission. "How do they go to the bathroom and eat? It's 100 degrees every day."
Frustrated truckers and produce trade officials are pleading with Gov. Abbott to pay more attention to the need for a smooth flow of trade traffic between Texas and Mexico. Abbott ordered the safety inspection of every commercial vehicle crossing the border by DPS officials, hoping that such inspections would reveal unauthorized migrants or illicit drugs being smuggled into the U.S., the Dallas Morning News reported.
"As the federal government continues to roll back commonsense policies that once kept our communities safe, our local law enforcement has stepped up to protect Texans from dangerous criminals, deadly drugs, and illegal contraband flooding into the Lone Star State," Gov. Abbott said.
A Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) spokesperson said that since Abbott's order was issued, the agency had inspected nearly 2,400 commercial vehicles and taken 552 vehicles out of service for "serious safety violations" such as defective brakes, tires and lighting, reported Reuters.
Ernesto Gaytan, chairman of the Texas Trucking Association, said migrants rarely tried to cross the border illegally via commercial trucks at legal ports of entry, Reuters reported. "Slowing down trade isn't the solution."
Galeazzi said the delays at the Pharr–Reynosa International Bridge alone had, since Friday, prevented an estimated $30 million of fresh produce from reaching the U.S. side, Reuters reported.
"There are very likely to be store shelves devoid of fresh produce items this Easter holiday weekend," he said, warning that prices would rise for consumers if the delays continued.
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